Category Archives: Train speed

Washington Republican asks USDOT to consider further crude-by-rail regulations

Repost from American Shipper

Lawmaker asks USDOT to consider further crude-by-rail regulations

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., has requested the Department of Transportation study potential methods for reducing the combustibility of crude oil trains.
BY BEN MEYER |FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

U.S. House Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., is urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider further regulation of freight trains carrying crude oil.

Beutler earlier this week sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Federal Railroad Administrator Sara Feinberg and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez asking DOT to study potential methods for reducing the combustibility of crude oil trains.

Specifically, Beutler asked DOT to consider whether interspersing oil tank cars with non-volatile commodities might make them less likely to catch fire in the event of a derailment.

Beutler’s letter was largely prompted by a growing number of destructive derailments involving crude oil trains in recent years, the largest of which claimed the lives of 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013.

Back in June, a Union Pacific Corp. train carrying crude oil derailed near Mosier, Ore., about 68 miles east of Portland, causing some of the tank cars to burst into flames and spill oil into an adjacent section of the Columbia River. That train was en route from Eastport, Idaho to Tacoma, Wash. carrying crude oil from the Bakken formation, which is more flammable and dangerous than other types of crude oil.

“Although far less catastrophic than it could have been, the [Mosier] derailment highlighted the need for strong safety measures to address shipments of volatile and hazardous commodities through the Columbia River Gorge – whether related, or unrelated to oil shipments,” Beutler wrote in the letter. “Subsequently, I am writing to request information on dispersing tank cars carrying oil, or other hazardous materials, with non-volatile products throughout trains.”

She asked DOT to consider whether continuous blocks of oil tank cars increases the risks of combustion, potential benefits of requiring disbursement of cars carrying flammable materials throughout a train, and possible effects on combustibility of use of newer DOT-117 tank cars.

In addition, Beutler asked if federal regulators have studied speed limits reduction for oil trains as a way to mitigate the risk of combustion.

Washington state lawmakers last month adopted new regulations surrounding the transportation of crude oil by rail and pipeline that officially take effect Oct. 1. Developed by the Washington Department of Ecology at the request of the legislature, Chapter 173-185 WAC, Oil Movement by Rail and Pipeline Notification, established reporting standards for facilities receiving crude oil transported by rail and pipeline, and for the department to share information with emergency responders, local governments, tribes and the public.

On the federal level, DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration, in August released final rules amending the federal hazardous materials regulations related to the transport of crude oil and ethanol by rail.

The rule changes, first introduced by DOT in May 2015 as required by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, include an enhanced tank car standard and an “aggressive, risk-based” retrofitting schedule for older tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol.

In addition, the rules require trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids to use a new braking standard; employ new operational protocols such as routing requirements and speed restrictions; share information with local government agencies; and provide new sampling and testing requirements DOT said will “improve classification of energy products placed into transport.”

The Senate in May unanimously passed the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act, which aims to provide additional training for first responders, specifically for handling freight train derailments that include hazardous materials such as crude oil.

Originally sponsored by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., the legislation establishes a public-private council of emergency responders, federal agencies and industry stakeholders tasked with reviewing current training methods and prescribing best practices for first responders to Congress. The council will be co-chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and PHMSA. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., has introduced a companion bill to the RESPONSE Act in the House of Representatives.

“Currently, oil trains are traveling along the Columbia River Gorge, and my focus is on ensuring federal regulations are making these shipments as safely as possible,” Beutler said in a statement. “Long lines of oil cars are becoming a more familiar sight in our region, and if breaking them up into smaller blocks will better protect our citizens, the Columbia River and nearby forests, we should put a federal standard in place – quickly.”

Share...

    Gogama fire chief asks for more than DOT-111 tanker phase out

    Repost from CBC News, Sudbury
    [Editor: Significant quotes: “This week, the federal [Canadian] government announced DOT-111 rail cars will be phased out sooner than expected.” …and “Marc Garneau, the federal transport minister, said by 2025 no flammable liquids will be permitted to be transported by rail car.”  – RS]

    Gogama fire chief asks for more than DOT-111 tanker phase out

    Tankers that carried crude oil in recent derailments will be phased out or scrapped by 2025
    Martha Dillman & Casey Stranges, CBC News Jul 27, 2016 8:57 AM ET
    By 2025, flammable goods will no longer be permitted to be transported across the Canada.
    By 2025, flammable goods will no longer be permitted to be transported across the Canada. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

    This week, the federal government announced DOT-111 rail cars will be phased out sooner than expected.

    DOT-111 rail cars were involved in the deadly rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec three years ago.

    A similar model of rail cars transported crude oil in derailments near the northern Ontario community of Gogama — including two last year that spilled more than 100,000 litres of crude oil.

    Although he was critical of CN and their handling of local derailments, Gogama fire chief Mike Benson said he believes rail companies and the federal government want to make it safer to transport goods.

    “The financial aspect is what’s holding everything back here,” Benson said, “but certainly, CN recognizes that it’s in their best interest not to have derailments. The federal government certainly understands that.”

    In March, Benson said that CN was keeping his people from seeing the derailment site during its investigation, which bred mistrust in the community.

    And considering that his community has seen two derailments in a short period, Benson said that phasing out the rail cars is a step in the right direction, but other aspects of rail transportation need to be considered.

    “I think the infrastructure, the [rail] track system, the maintenance that they’re doing on the track system, and I think they really have to look at the speeds when [the trains are] going through municipalities,” Benson said.

    Marc Garneau, the federal transport minister, said by 2025 no flammable liquids will be permitted to be transported by rail car.

    Garneau said about 28,000 DOT-111 railcars are still in use, travelling between Canada and the United States. He said the cars may be upgraded, used to transport other goods or sold to be scrapped.

    Trains coming from the U.S. will be monitored to ensure they comply with the new rules.

    Share...

      Are Oil Trains Just Too Heavy? No Regulations, No Weigh To Know

      Repost from DeSmogBlog
      [Editor: Apologies for the ad content. My retired volunteer budget won’t allow the $5 per DeSmog article for no ads.  🙁   – RS]

      Are Oil Trains Just Too Heavy? No Regulations, No Weigh To Know

      The cause of the most recent bomb train derailment and fire in Mosier, OR has been determined to be lag bolts that had sheared off resulting in the derailment. This once again raises concerns that the unit trains of oil are putting too much stress on the tracks due to their excessive weight and length. There… Continue reading Are Oil Trains Just Too Heavy? No Regulations, No Weigh To Know

      Share...

        STEVE YOUNG: What Benicia can learn from the Oregon train derailment

        Repost from the Benicia Herald

        What Benicia can learn from the Oregon train derailment

        By Steve Young, June 7, 2016
        Planning Commissioner Steve Young is running for City Council. Among the biggest issues in his campaign are opposing Valero’s Crude-By-Rail Project, diversifying the city’s economic base, modernizing the water and sewer system, improving the roads and maintaining the parks. (Courtesy photo)
        Planning Commissioner Steve Young is running for Benicia City Council. Among the biggest issues in his campaign are opposing Valero’s Crude-By-Rail Project, diversifying the city’s economic base, modernizing the water and sewer system, improving the roads and maintaining the parks. (Courtesy photo)

        On Friday, June 3, a Union Pacific train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in the town of Mosier, Ore. Fourteen rail cars came off the tracks, and four exploded over a 5 hour period.

        There are several things that the City Council needs to keep in mind whenever they re-open discussion of the appeal of the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision to reject the Valero Crude-by-Rail project. Many of the assurances given to the public about the safety of transporting crude by rail have been called into question by this derailment.

          1. The train cars that derailed and exploded are the upgraded CPC-1232 version promised to be used by Valero for this project.
          2. The train derailed at a relatively slow speed as it passed through the small town of Mosier. Union Pacific trains carrying Bakken to Valero will travel at speeds up to 50 mph in most of Solano County.
          3. The portion of track on which the train derailed had been inspected by Union Pacific three days before the derailment.
          4. A Union Pacific spokesman, while apologizing for the derailment and fire, would not answer a reporter’s question as to whether the Bakken oil had been stabilized with the removal of volatile gases prior to shipment.
            At the Planning Commission hearing, I tried repeatedly without success to get an answer from both UP and Valero as to whether they intended to de-gassify the Bakken oil prior to transport.
          5. A major interstate, Interstate 84, was closed for 10 hours in both directions while first responders used river water to try and cool the tank cars to a point where foam could be used to try and put out the fire. It took more than 12 hours to stabilize the scene.
          6. An oil sheen is in the river, despite the deployment of containment booms.

        And finally, Oregon Public Broadcasting on June 4 had an exchange with the Fire Chief of Mosier, about how this experience changed his opinion about the safety of transporting crude by rail:

        “Jim Appleton, the fire chief in Mosier, Ore., said in the past, he’s tried to reassure his town that the Union Pacific Railroad has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.

        “He’s changed his mind.

        “After a long night working with hazardous material teams and firefighters from across the Northwest to extinguish a fire that started when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in his town, Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe.

        “’I hope that this becomes the death knell for this mode of shipping this cargo. I think it’s insane,’ he said. ’I’ve been very hesitant to take a side up to now, but with this incident, and with all due respect to the wonderful people that I’ve met at Union Pacific, shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.’”

        When the City Council took up the appeal of the Planning Commission decision in April, Mayor Patterson and Councilmember Campbell stated their opposition to the project, while the other three councilmembers (Hughes, Schwartzman and Strawbridge) approved Valero’s request to delay a decision on this project until at least Sept. 20. There is still time for the citizens of Benicia to tell their elected officials how they feel about this project. I urge them to do so.

        Steve Young, a member of the Benicia Planning Commission, is running for the Benicia City Council in November.

        Share...