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Crude oil

FRA safety facility trains emergency responders for potential rail incidents

Last week, I visited the Security and Emergency Response Training Center outside of Pueblo, Colorado, to see first-hand a new 3-day course in Crude by Rail Emergency Response. 

Funded by a $5 million commitment from the rail industry, in an agreement secured by Secretary Foxx, this training adds to local first responders’ levels of preparedness for a crude emergency.  Emergency responders at SERTC spend more than 60 percent of their time in the field, getting advanced tactical experience in dealing with crude oil accidents.  At the end of the course, the students participate in a full-scale derailment exercise that tests every skill they’ve learned. 

Photo of FRA Administrator Szabo at SERTC

U.S. DOT Announces Comprehensive Proposed Rulemaking for the Safe Transportation of Crude Oil, Flammable Materials

Releases new data on Bakken crude oil to support increased safety measures

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released the details of its comprehensive rulemaking proposal to improve the safe transportation of large quantities of flammable materials by rail - particularly crude oil and ethanol - in the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and a companion Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).

Proposed rulemaking promises increased rail safety for crude oil, other flammable materials

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. In 2008, producers shipped 9,500 rail-carloads of oil in the U.S.; by just last year, that number skyrocketed to 415,000 rail-carloads --a jump of more than 4,300 percent.

The risks of transporting that crude, unfortunately, were made clear to me during my first week as Secretary last July, when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

So today, we're proposing a rulemaking to improve the safe transportation of large quantities of flammable materials by rail, particularly crude oil and ethanol. The new, comprehensive rulemaking will open for public comment once published in the Federal Register at www.regulations.gov, and I urge you to read it and provide your feedback...

Photo of train pulling tank cars near a city

On the Hill, talking about energy transportation safety

Safety was on my mind when, yesterday, I went up to Capitol Hill to speak before the Senate Commerce Committee. My testimony came one week to the very hour after a train carrying crude oil derailed near downtown Lynchburg, Virginia. The crash sent oil spilling into the James River, and ignited flames on the banks of that river, causing the evacuation of a 20-block area.

As I told committee members, we’re very fortunate no one was killed, let alone hurt.

I also told them about two steps we took earlier yesterday to make transporting oil by rail safer: a Safety Advisory, strongly urging those shipping or offering Bakken crude oil to use tank car designs with the highest level of integrity available in their fleets, and an Emergency Order requiring shippers and energy companies to identify the routes Bakken crude oil is traveling and to notify state emergency responders so they can work with communities along those routes to prepare local police and fire departments...

File photo of Anthony Foxx

DOT outlines options for enhancing tank car standards

Today, I visited Casselton, North Dakota, to reaffirm DOT's commitment to making sure energy products transported by train are carried safely.

One thing I emphasized this afternoon is that all of the actions we have taken to date are just first steps. More safety measures are on the way.

In fact, I was happy to have the opportunity in Casselton to announce that DOT plans to send a comprehensive rulemaking package to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs next week. The proposal will include options for enhancing tank car standards.  We look forward to working collaboratively with OIRA on the Administration’s proposal and initiating the formal comment process as soon as possible...

FRA to Issue Proposed Rule on Minimum Train Crew Size

Railroad Safety Advisory Committee Approves Other Key Recommendations on Train Securement and Hazardous Materials Regulations

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced its intention to issue a proposed rule requiring two-person train crews on crude oil trains and establishing minimum crew size standards for most main line freight and passenger rail operations.  The FRA also intends to advance a rulemaking on train securement and recommends a rulemaking on the movement of hazardous materials.

DOT Issues Emergency Order Requiring Stricter Standards to Transport Crude Oil by Rail

Today’s action marks the 4th emergency order or safety advisory on crude oil in the last seven months

EDITOR's NOTE: As of March 6, 2014, this article links below to an amended Emergency Order that supercedes the earlier order.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today issued an Emergency Order requiring all shippers to test product from the Bakken region to ensure the proper classification of crude oil before it is transported by rail, while also prohibiting the transportation of crude oil in the lowest-strength packing group.

DOT’s Call to Action Results in Safety Changes for Transport of Crude Oil

As part of DOT’s comprehensive response to recent derailments of trains carrying crude oil, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx held a call-to-action meeting with the rail community last month to identify immediate steps that could be taken to improve safety. Today, little more than a month later, DOT and the nation's major freight railroads announced steps to help ensure that crude oil transported by rail moves safely from its origin to its destination.

Railroads have agreed to:

  • Increased track inspections--beyond what is required by federal regulations--on routes with trains carrying 20 or more carloads of crude oil;
  • Better braking technology allowing for faster stopping and a decreased likelihood of pileup;
  • Traffic routing technology that uses the Rail Corridor Risk Management System to determine the safest and most secure routes for trains carrying 20 or more carloads of crude oil;
  • Lower speeds through designated urban areas for trains carrying at least one older DOT-111 car; and
  • Other steps including working with communities along crude oil rail transport routes, increased trackside safety technology, specialized training for local first responders, and emergency response capability planning.

Photo of train carrying crude oil; courtesy WHYY