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Press Conference: DOT Crude Oil by Rail Press Conference

Secretary Anthony Foxx

Press Conference: DOT Crude Oil by Rail Press Conference
Washington, DC • July 23, 2014

Thank you all for coming.  And thanks to Joe Szabo, our Federal Railroad Administrator, and Cynthia Quarterman, our Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator, for joining me.

We are at the dawn of a promising time for energy production in this country.  This is a positive development for our economy, and for energy independence.

But the responsibilities attached to this production are very serious.

More crude oil is being shipped by rail than ever before, with much of it being transported out of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale Formation.

If America is going to be a world leader in producing energy, our job at this Department is to ensure we’re also a world leader in safely transporting it.

This is why we’ve taken more than two dozen steps – many unprecedented – to strengthen all the ways we deliver this oil.

We’ve issued Safety Advisories – including our latest, which called for companies to avoid the use of DOT 111 tank cars.

We’ve issued Emergency Orders – for example, requiring companies to notify State Emergency Response Commissions that they are transporting crude oil through their towns and communities.

We are examining how crude oil shipments are classified through an inspection program called Operation Classification.

We are strengthening railroad safety regulations … and also reached agreements with the industry itself to undertake a number of voluntary measures.

And today, we are building on all of these actions by issuing a comprehensive rulemaking proposal to improve the safe transportation of large quantities of flammable materials by rail – particularly crude oil and ethanol.

Let me run you through some of the details.

We are proposing new operational requirements for trains carrying 20 or more carloads of flammable liquids, what we are calling high-hazard flammable trains.  This includes restricting speeds, doing risk assessments of routes, and notifying State Emergency Response Commissions. 

Our rulemaking proposes to require a higher standard for classifying and testing mined gases and liquids.

And our rulemaking – among other things – proposes to enhance tank car standards.  Specifically, within two years, it phases out the use of older DOT 111 tank cars – unless they’ve been retrofitted to comply with new tank car design standards – for shipments of Packing Group I flammable liquids, including most crude oil.

Additionally, it lays out three options for improving the design requirements for tank cars built after October 1st of next year: including proposing thicker, more puncture-resistant shells … and other safety features like enhanced braking and rollover protection.

Now, out of all the options our rule presents, it is mine and our Department’s preference to go with the one that’s safest for the communities along these routes – and for the men and women operating these trains.  Safety is the goal of this department; it is the most important part of our mission.

But we also respect the rulemaking process.  So before we set specific standards, we have to consider a variety of factors, and gather feedback from the public, industry, and stakeholders.

Let me add, as well, that our rulemaking is supported by sound data and analysis.

Because today, we’re also releasing a report with testing results from Operation Classification.

This effort is ongoing.  But what we’ve confirmed so far is that Bakken crude oil is on the high end of volatility compared to other crude oils.

And not only is it on the high end of volatility, its production is skyrocketing: up from 9,500 rail-carloads in 2008 … to 415,000 last year, a more than 4,000-percent increase.

This volume of crude oil being produced and transported by rail just didn’t exist that long ago.  We must continue acting aggressively to ensure it is transported safely.

Our rulemaking proposal reflects feedback from more than 152,000 commenters.

Today, we are opening a new 60-day period for public comment.  And, given the urgency of the safety issues we’re addressing, I currently have no intention of extending it.

We look forward, rather, to receiving robust feedback before the deadline … and moving forward to improve safety.

Thank you.  I look forward to your questions.

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Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2014