Repost from The Richmond Times-Dispatch
State regulators expect penalty for CSX oil train wreck
April CSX wreck sent oil into river at LynchburgBy Alicia Petska, The News & Advance, August 21, 2014 10:30 pm
LYNCHBURG — State environmental regulators are in talks with CSX to negotiate the terms of a consent order that will be issued in response to the estimated 29,916 gallons of oil released into the James River during the April 30 train derailment in downtown Lynchburg.
The order is expected to include a financial penalty, but the amount has not been determined yet, said Robert Weld, regional director for the Department of Environmental Quality.
Other measures may include long-term monitoring of river conditions and replanting vegetative buffers along the riverbank.
Water quality testing in the weeks after the derailment found no contaminants of concern, Weld said, but visual checks and other monitoring will continue out of an “abundance of caution.”
It remains unclear just how much of the Bakken crude oil that leaked during the downtown derailment actually mixed into the river or made its way downstream.
Much of it burned in the large fire that erupted after 17 cars on a 105-car oil train derailed near downtown Lynchburg. Three cars tumbled over the riverbank, and one ruptured. There were no injuries or building damage.
The incident drew Lynchburg into a national debate over how to safely ship the volatile crude found in Bakken shale around North Dakota, where production has skyrocketed in recent years.
On Wednesday, Weld was among more than a dozen state officials who convened in Lynchburg for the second meeting of a new rail safety task force formed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe after the derailment.
The meeting, held at City Hall, included a presentation from the federal agency charged with regulating hazmat shipments and public comments from environmental advocates and rail employee representatives.
CSX had offered to reimburse the city for the cost of its emergency response and sent the final check last week, according to Lynchburg’s finance department.
The reimbursement totaled $107,853 for personnel and equipment costs, as well as minor property damage to trees, curbs and sidewalks.
The new rail safety task force has been asked to advise the state on how it can improve its own preparedness and response efforts.
It also might weigh in on the federal regulations that govern most aspects of rail operations. The U.S. Department of Transportation has been studying the oil-by-rail issue since a deadly oil train derailment in Quebec in July 2013.
Last month, federal officials released a set of proposed rules that may lead to phasing out older DOT-111 model tankers that have been criticized as puncture prone.
There also may be higher standards for braking systems, speed limits and testing of volatile liquids. The proposed rules are in a 60-day public comment period that will end Sept. 30.
During a public hearing Wednesday, water quality advocates with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and James River Association urged officials to take a comprehensive look at the rail safety issue and not limit themselves to one region, cargo or issue.
The proposed federal regulations may not do anything to deter the kind of derailment that occurred in Lynchburg, said Pat Calvert of the James River Association, whose office is close to the derailment site.
Given the location of the derailment — near several downtown businesses and a popular trail system — it’s a miracle no one was injured, he said.
“We dodged a bullet,” Calvert said. “But we shouldn’t necessarily be playing Russian roulette here.”
The cause of the Lynchburg derailment is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB said it could be a year or more before its report is ready.
The state’s rail safety task force plans to hold its next meeting in September in the Norfolk area. It hopes to tour the Yorktown oil refinery — where oil-by-rail shipments through Virginia end up — and meet with a representative of the NTSB.