$175 oil tanker penalty sought

Times Union | May 1, 2015 | Column by Brian Nearing

On the eve of the announcement of new oil train safety standards, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has introduced legislation levying a fee on the least-safe tank cars and offering incentives to phase out those cars more quickly.

Transport Canada and the U.S. Department of Transportation will announce new tank car safety standards during a press conference Friday morning in Washington. Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will make the announcement.

Foxx will also describe other aspects of DOT's final rule.

The Schumer measure would levy a $175 fee on DOT-111 tank cars that have been implicated in several fiery derailments, including one that killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec, in July 2013.

The fee would be charged per car per shipment, and increase annually. Funds raised would be used to train first responders, pay for additional railroad inspectors, and relocate tracks that carry large volumes of flammable liquids or gases.

A tax credit, meanwhile, would be offered to companies that upgrade CPC-1232 tank cars, a newer version of the DOT-111, in 2016, 2017 or 2018 to the new standard expected to be issued Friday.

The legislation, also sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Dianne Feinstein of California, includes a requirement that the federal Energy Information Administration publish data on shipments of flammable energy products through communities, and that the DOT examine first responder preparedness in dealing with train accidents involving flammable liquids.

Schumer and other elected officials and safety advocates have been pushing for release of the new standards for transporting crude oil and other flammable liquids. This week, the Federal Railroad Administration even issued an emergency order governing oil train speeds through 46 high-threat urban areas around the country.

In many cases, railroads have voluntarily slowed their oil trains, and have started charging premiums of shippers who continue to use the older, DOT-111 tank cars to move the flammable Bakken crude.

The Port of Albany has become a major transshipment point for the fracked oil from North Dakota, with two freight lines converging there. A third line has carried oil trains through the Capital Region directly to the Irving Oil Co. refinery in St. John, Newfoundland.

The Irving refinery was the destination of the train that derailed in Lac Megantic.

Oil trains in the Capital Region pass within feet of some homes and apartments, including a large complex in Albany, Ezra Prentice Homes, that is adjacent to the port's railyards.

People of Albany United for Safe Energy, or PAUSE, has pushed for an end to what it calls the "bomb trains" in Albany, asking state officials to use its summary abatement authority to halt the rail traffic as an imminent hazard to life, health or the environment. State officials say they lack the authority to do that.

eanderson@timesunion.com • 518-454-5323

http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/175-oil-tanker-penalty-sought-6234807.php

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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.