Tag Archives: Barrington IL

Feds tighten safeguards for oil trains, Illinois officials want more

Repost from The Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago

Feds tighten safeguards for oil trains, advocates want more

By Marni Pyke, 4/17/2015 5:38 PM
Federal regulators are tightening some rules on transport of flammable liquids in tank cars.
Federal regulators are tightening some rules on transport of flammable liquids in tank cars. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, December 2014

Federal regulators’ tweaks to rules for trains carrying flammable liquids released Friday didn’t impress local officials who are concerned about explosive fires.

“I’m fairly underwhelmed,” Barrington Mayor Karen Darch said regarding the recommendations by the Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The two agencies did act on one concern of suburban fire departments that first-responders wouldn’t get information on hazmat being shipped in a timely manner in cases of derailments or fires.

Regulators advised railroads and shippers they must provide first responders immediately with names and descriptions of hazardous materials, fire risks and the locations of tank cars on the train and their specifications, among other details.

Another recommendation was that “only the highest skilled inspectors” conduct brake and mechanical inspections of trains carrying large quantities of flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol.

“That struck me as incredibly odd,” Darch said, noting she was under the impression only well-qualified inspectors would be used in the first place given the volatility of some cargo on oil trains.

Regulators also issued an emergency order requiring trains with 20 or more continuous tank cars or 35 or more tank cars with Class 3 flammable liquids like crude oil stay at 40 mph or lower in urban areas.

Darch said restricting the speed limits to trains with 20 or 35 tank cars of flammable hazmat didn’t cover safety concerns when freights had smaller loads.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called the changes “steps in the right direction, but they are not enough. We have to move to a new generation of tank cars that bring a new generation of safety. We are seeing the use of these tank cars moving crude oil in dramatically large numbers through rural and urban areas.”

Durbin is asking regulators to finalize new rules ordering retrofitting and replacement of older, accident-prone tank cars.

Since Feb. 16, four derailments of trains carrying crude oil with subsequent fire balls have occurred in the United States and Canada. One involved tank cars on a BNSF train outside of Galena March 5.

U.S. Mayors: oil trains must be drained of explosive gas

Repost from Reuters
[Editor: see also Safety of Citizens in Bomb Train Blast Zones in Hands of North Dakota Politicians and North Dakota seizes initiative in CBR degasification. – RS]

U.S. oil trains must be drained of explosive gas, mayors say

By Patrick Rucker. WASHINGTON, Sep 16, 2014

(Reuters) – Dangerous gas should be removed from oil train shipments to prevent a future disaster on the tracks, U.S. mayors and safety officials will tell regulators in comments on a sweeping federal safety plan.

The Department of Transportation in July proposed measures meant to end a string of fiery accidents as more trains carrying oil from North Dakota wind across the United States.

Tank cars carrying flammable cargoes would be toughened and forced to move at slower speeds under the plan. But critics say the failure to address vapor pressure, a measure of how much volatile gas is contained in the crude, is a major omission, and intend to drive their point home.

“That’s an oversight we’re going to push them to fix,” Elizabeth Harman, an official with the International Association of Fire Fighters, told Reuters.

Responses to the DOT’s plan are due by Sept. 30, and so far more than 100 comments have been received. Typically in a contentious rulemaking major stakeholders submit their views just before the deadline.

U.S. officials have studied vapor pressure since July 2013, when a runaway oil train derailed in the Quebec village of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people in a fireball that shocked many with its explosive power.

Until recently, official findings on vapor pressure were in line with industry-funded studies: That the North Dakota fuel is similar to other U.S. light crude oil deemed safe to move in standard tank cars.

But the DOT said last week that it did not properly handle prior samples and that a precision device, a floating piston cylinder, is needed to reliably detect vapor pressure dangers.

Given that disclaimer, many officials simply want dangerous gas removed from crude oil before it is loaded onto rail cars.

“The technology exists so it boils down to costs,” said Mike Webb, a spokesman for Davis, California, who expects nearby cities will join a call for safer handling of Bakken crude from North Dakota.

Under one scenario, energy companies would siphon gas from crude oil and send the fuel to market via different channels. But building such infrastructure, like separators or processing towers, could cost billions of dollars.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council has sampled some Bakken fuel using a floating piston cylinder and the results have been inconclusive, said Kari Cutting, vice president for the trade group.

“But nothing we’ve seen supports the idea that Bakken crude is more volatile than other light crude oils or other flammable liquids,” said Cutting.

But leaders of many railside towns say uncertainty demands the fuel only move under the most stringent safety measures.

“There is a way to haul dangerous cargo safely and that means using state-of-the-art tools,” said Karen Darch, mayor of the Chicago suburb of Barrington, where fuel-laden freight trains cross commuter tracks as many as 20 times a day.

North Dakota officials will next week hold a hearing to consider measures to de-gasify crude oil in the state.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker, editing by Ros Krasny and Cynthia Osterman)

Chicago Area Mayors Meet with Feds, Call For Improved Safety Measures For Oil Trains

Repost from CBS2 Chicago

Mayors Call For Improved Safety Measures For Oil Trains

August 20, 2014
Firefighters douse a blaze after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire.  More than 40 people were killed as a result of the crash and fire. (Photo redit: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters douse a blaze after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada’s Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. More than 40 people were killed as a result of the crash and fire. (Photo redit: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (CBS) – Federal railroad officials got an earful Wednesday from the mayors of several Chicago area towns that have been affected by a growing number of increasingly long trains hauling crude oil and other volatile materials.

WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports the mayors expressed concerns about traffic congestion and public safety from freight trains that they said have been getting longer and more dangerous, due to larger amounts of flammable crude oil they haul in outdated tanker cars.

The mayors spoke directly to Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo and Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott III, at a meeting arranged by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

The senator said approximately 25 percent of all freight train traffic travels through the Chicago area each day, including 40 trains hauling crude oil.

Barrington Village President Karen Darch said the village has seen a stark increase in the number of completely full freight trains hauling 100 or more carloads of crude oil or ethanol along the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway.

“Before, half of the community didn’t even know where the EJ&E Line was. There were a couple of trains at night. Now, several times a day, traffic – all traffic – comes to a halt as the train passes through town, and these can be hundred-car trains,” she said.

quebec derailment 1 Mayors Call For Improved Safety Measures For Oil Trains


Darch and other Chicago area mayors said their constituents have been plagued by frequent traffic jams caused by long trains rolling through the area, and are constantly worried that a fire or worse could erupt on old tankers carrying volatile liquids.

They mayors expressed concerns about a repeat of a July 2013 freight train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed dozens of buildings when multiple tanker cars filled with crude oil caught fire and exploded.

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said safe passage is mandatory.

“About a third of the rail accidents that do occur are related to failures of the rail infrastructure itself, and so our position is basically twofold: one, improve the tank cars and get rid of the ones that aren’t safe; and second, make the rails safe.”

Durbin said the issue requires some time to address.

“I’ve talked to the tank car manufacturers, and they understand that they have two responsibilities: build a safer car, but in the meantime retrofit existing cars,” he said.

The senator said there is no way to immediately and completely ban older style oil tanker cars, but said federal railroad officials are aware of the danger they pose, and that they must be upgraded or replaced as soon as possible.

Darch urged federal authorities to institute increased safety controls and reduced speed limits for even small trains hauling crude oil.

“A huge concern for us is what about all the trains that come through that have 19 cars or less of hazmat,” she said.

Federal railroad officials said proposed federal regulations would require increased testing to keep crude oil out of older style tankers. Railroads also would be required to notify local officials when crude oil trains will roll through, and impose a 40 mph speed limit on such trains.

Suburban Chicago mayors criticize crude oil tanker policy making

Repost from ABC7 Chicago Eyewitness News
[Editor: Be sure to read the mayors’ letter to the Obama Administration.  – RS]

Suburban mayors criticize crude oil tanker policy making

By Chuck Goudie, Friday, June 20, 2014