Tag Archives: Canada Transport Minister Lisa Raitt

New rules for rail tankers face years of debate, delay

Repost from The State, Columbia, SC

New rules for rail tankers face years of debate, delay

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Newspapers, May 2, 2015

The U.S. and Canadian governments have unveiled a long-awaited new standard for the tank cars used to transport crude oil and ethanol that includes numerous safety improvements.

But it is far from the final word on efforts to reduce the risk of catastrophic derailments, such as the one that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, nearly two years ago. And industry and environmental groups are bracing for a court fight over portions of the regulations announced Friday that they don’t like.

Most of the current tank car fleet that doesn’t meet the new requirements will be allowed to carry ethanol and some types of crude oil for eight more years. Environmental groups and some lawmakers objected Friday to the extended timeline.

It will be two years before the Energy and Transportation departments complete a study on the properties of crude oil and how they affect the way it reacts in derailments. While the rail industry supports the new tank car standard, it opposes the requirement for an electronic braking system on certain trains.

The regulation also expands the amount of information about rail shipments of flammable liquids that will be available to emergency responders, but incorporates it into an existing regulation that would exempt it from public disclosure.

In Washington on Friday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and his Canadian counterpart, Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt, rolled out the new regulations, which are generally in sync on both sides of the border, given the seamless nature of the North American rail system.

“Tank cars cross the border every day,” Raitt said in a news conference with Foxx, “so it’s important that the regulations apply equally in both countries.”

The new tank car, called the DOT-117, will have features that are designed to prevent it from puncturing in a derailment and to better withstand prolonged exposure to fire.

The regulation requires that beginning Oct. 1 new tank cars built to transport flammable liquids have thicker shells, full-height shields on each end of the cars and a layer of thermal insulation on the outside. The new standard also requires more protection for valves and outlets.

The railroad industry supports the new tank car design but opposes the requirement that certain types of trains be equipped with electronically controlled brakes by January 2021.

Since the late 19th century, trains have operated with mechanical air brakes. The Federal Railroad Administration has said that electronic brakes would enable trains to stop more quickly and could prevent the accordion-shaped pileups characteristic of recent oil train accidents.

In a phone call with reporters Friday, Ed Hamberger, the president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, a leading industry group, criticized the braking requirement, saying it wouldn’t prevent accidents.

The industry could avoid the requirement by operating the trains it applies to at 30 mph or limiting them to 69 cars. Either way, Hamberger said, it would be costly and disruptive.

The industry is taking a look at its options to challenge the requirement, Hamberger said

Foxx said the electronic braking was reliable technology and that he hoped the railroads would accept it. He was also confident that the regulation would withstand a court challenge.

The rule might also face a challenge from environmentalists, who object to the retrofitting timeline. There have been four major oil train derailments since the beginning of the year, and environmental groups fear there might be more before the new requirements kick in.

NY Times: U.S. Sets New Rules for Oil Trains – Sen. Schumer: DOT gave railroads too much time to remove unsafe cars

Repost from the New York Times

U.S. Sets New Rules for Oil Shipments by Rail

An oil train in Everett, Wash. There have been five explosions and spills involving oil trains this year, four in the United States and one in Canada. Credit Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Ending months of delays and uncertainty, federal regulators on Friday disclosed new rules for safer transportation of crude oil by trains, introducing a new tank car standard and mandating the use of new braking technology.

The regulations, more than two years in the making, followed a spate of derailments, oil spills and fiery explosions involving oil trains around the country that have highlighted the risks involved in shipping large quantities of explosive material on rails through cities.

The rules state that the oldest, least safe tank cars should be replaced within three years with new cars that have thicker shells, higher safety shields and better fire protection. A later generation of tank cars, built since 2011 with more safety features, will have to be retrofitted or replaced by 2020.

It is the second time in weeks that the Department of Transportation has announced new rules for rail shipments to instill public confidence. Last month, it set lower speed limits for oil trains going through urban areas.

There have been five explosions and spills this year alone, four in the United States and one in Canada. In July 2013, 47 people died in Canada after a runway train derailed and exploded in the city of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

“I am hopeful the rail industry will accept this rule, and will follow this rule,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at a news conference in Washington. He appeared with Canada’s transport minister, Lisa Raitt, who said Canadian and American regulation would be aligned.

There has been growing pressure from local governments, members of Congress, safety experts and environmental advocates for federal action. The question before the administration was to determine what level of protection the new generation of cars should have and how quickly to roll them out.

The new rules create a new standard, “high-hazard flammable trains,” defined as “a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train.”

By 2018, the rule would phase out older tank cars, DOT-111s, long known to be ill suited for transporting flammable material. A newer generation of cars, known as CPC-1232, would have to be retired or refitted to meet the new standard, DOT-117, by 2020.

All cars built under the DOT-117 standard after Oct. 1, 2015, will have a thicker nine-sixteenths-inch tank shell, a one-half-inch shield running the full height of the front and back of a tank car, thermal protection and improved pressure-relief valves and bottom outlet valves.

Regulators retreated from a provision that would have forced railroads to notify communities of any oil train traffic. Instead, railroads will be required to have a “point of contact” for information related to the routing of hazardous materials.

Some critics asserted after Friday’s announcement that the regulations would do little to prevent another spill or explosion while older cars remained in operation.

On Thursday, seven senators, including Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, unveiled a bill that would seek to impose a $175 per shipment fee on older cars to speed up their removal from service.

Senator Schumer said Friday’s announcement gave railroads too much time to remove older cars from service.

“The good news is that the standards are predictable, but the bad news is that the phaseout time is too lenient,” he said. “Our railroads are changing, and are getting much busier because of all this oil business, and they will have to adapt. They can’t do it the old way.”

The Association of American Railroads said it backed the new tank car requirements but objected to a requirement that railroads should adopt new electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, or E.C.P., starting in 2021 for oil trains.

“The D.O.T. couldn’t make a safety case for E.C.P. but forged ahead anyway,” Edward R. Hamberger, the president and chief executive of the Association of American Railroads, said in a statement. “I have a hard time believing the determination to impose E.C.P. brakes is anything but a rash rush to judgment.”

Canada proposes tough new oil tank standards after string of crashes

Repost from CTV News

Canada to propose tougher oil tank standards after a string of crashes

Rob Gillies and Joan Lowy, March 12, 2015 1:22AM EDT              
CN Rail derailment
A CN Rail train derailment near Gogama, Ont., is shown in a Sunday, March 8, 2015 handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / HO – Glenn Thibeault)

TORONTO — The Canadian government has proposed tough new standards for rail tank cars used to transport crude oil in response to a string of fiery crashes. The proposal, posted online Wednesday by Transport Canada, would require the cars to have outer “jackets,” a layer of thermal protection, and thicker steel walls.

The requirements are tougher than the oil industry wanted. But the proposal doesn’t include electronically controlled brakes that automatically stop train cars at the same time instead of sequentially, which are opposed by freight railroads. Regulators said they will take that issue up separately

Final regulations are expected by mid-May. U.S. officials have been working closely with Canada on the regulations and the White House is reviewing a draft proposal.

There have been four oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada since mid-February. A runaway oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic Quebec in 2013, killing 47 people.A U.S. Transportation Department analysis predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.

New standards were enacted after Lac Megantic, but safety officials on both sides of the border called for even stronger measures after fiery derailments continued to happen despite the new tank cars standards.

The newest standard calls for a hull thickness of 9/16th of an inch, up from 7/17th of an inch and makes thermal jackets mandatory.

“The proposed requirements are still subject to final approval,” said Zach Segal, a spokesman for Transport Minister Lisa Raitt. “We are working to have this done in an expedited manner.”

Segal said Transport Canada is working in collaboration with the U.S and “wants this done and published as soon as possible.?” Segal said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet will have final approval.

The Transport Canada proposal is a “pretty clear indication” of what final regulations are likely to look like, said Ed Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads.

“These are important protections to both help mitigate the potential for rupture of a tank car, as well as limiting the severity of an incident,” he said.

The oil and rail industries want thinner tank walls — half an inch thick, instead of the 9/16ths-inch that regulators propose. The thicker the shell, the less oil a tank car can hold, and with about a half-million carloads of crude hauled by rail in the U.S. and Canada last year, the cost difference could add up.

The tank cars in the recent accidents were built to a voluntary standard written by industry representatives in 2011 to answer criticism that cars used to transport flammable liquids were prone to rupture in an accident and spill their contents and ignite spectacular fires. But most recent accidents show that the newer cars — known as 1232s — also are prone to rupture, even at slow speeds. Trains involved in four recent accidents were travelling under 40 mph (64 kph).

The White House budget office is reviewing a draft proposal for a sturdier tank car design, as well as other safety proposals. U.S. and Canadian officials have been working closely together to co-ordinate the regulations since the tank cars move back and forth across the border. Railroads and shippers have said if there were separate regulations in each country it could cause significant shipping delays and raise costs.

The railroad association and officials from CSX, Norfolk Southern and Burlington Northern-Santa Fe argued against requiring the electronically controlled brakes in a meeting with White House officials last week, according to a document posted online by the government. They say the government has underestimated the cost of equipping tank cars with the brakes and overestimated the safety benefits. Railroads complain that electronically controlled brakes would cost them $12 billion to $21 billion.

The oil industry has rapidly moved to using trains to transport oil, in part because of oil booms in North Dakota’s Bakken region and Alberta’s oil sands, and because of a lack of pipelines.