DOT Ignores Congress’ Deadline for Upgrading Safety Rules to Prevent Oil Train Disasters

News Release from Center For Biological Diversity
[Editor: see this story also in INFORUM (Fargo ND), which shows an interesting photo of a cross section from a damaged oil tanker car.  – RS]

Department of Transportation Ignores Congressional Deadline for Upgrading Safety Rules to Prevent Oil Train Disasters

PORTLAND, Ore.— Ignoring a congressional stipulation in the 2015 budget bill calling for new safety rules for oil trains by Jan. 15, federal transportation officials now say they won’t update the rules until May. Amid mounting concerns over the unchecked rise in shipments of highly volatile crude oil by train that has resulted in several explosive derailments and dozens of fatalities in the past two years, the federal Department of Transportation has yet to enact any on-the-ground safety improvements.

“Every day of delay is another day of putting people and the environment at risk of great harm,” said Jared Margolis, an attorney at the Center who focuses on the impacts of energy development on endangered species. “Continuing to allow these bomb trains to operate under current regulations is simply rolling the dice as to where and when the next disaster will occur.”

While several explosive oil-train accidents have occurred since the rulemaking process began in September 2013, the agency has failed to take any immediate action to resolve well-established concerns, such as the use of unsafe, puncture-prone DOT-111 tank cars.

“DOT-111 tank cars were never intended to transport these hazardous products,” said Margolis. “Failing to ban them immediately is a failure of the government’s duty to protect us from harm.”

Congress, understanding that rapid action is essential to protect the public, put a requirement in the 2015 budget bill for federal transportation officials to issue new safety rules by Jan. 15; but the industry has been fighting to delay and chip away at any efforts that would make moving oil by rail more expensive, regardless of safety concerns.

“Bomb trains are just one of many dangers posed by our continued dependence on fossil fuels,” Margolis said. “Ultimately, if we’re going to avoid dangerous oil-train derailments, as well as avoid the climate catastrophe that is currently being caused by our emissions, we must move away from these dangerous fossil fuels.”

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.