Feds propose 2-person crew on trains carrying crude oil

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle | April 10, 2014 | Column by Brian Tumulty

WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration said Wednesday it will issue a proposed rule requiring two-person crews on freight trains carrying crude oil and establish a minimum crew size for most freight and passenger trains. The announcement comes in response to a recent series of freight train accidents involving tanker cars carrying crude oil, which is being shipped with increasing frequency from the booming Bakken Formation oil field in North Dakota and Montana to distant refineries on the East and West coasts.

An estimated 434,000 tanker loads of crude oil were shipped by rail last year, compared to 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads.

The trade organization, which represents freight rail carriers, said Class 1 railroads already require two-person crews on trains carrying crude oil.

“What’s troubling is that the Federal Railroad Administration says it’s acting in the name of safety, but has never shared an iota of data that shows or proves two-person crews are safer,” Edward Hamberger, the railroad association’s president and CEO, said.

The FRA, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, will pursue a rule on transportation of hazardous materials and on safely securing trains not in use.

Both rules are expected to be open for public comment this summer. The proposals come from three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee working groups that were asked to look at safety issues last summer after a freight train accident in Canada that caused 47 deaths and the evacuation of more than 2,000 people. Several other derailments have occurred since, raising safety concerns.

Freight trains with 50 to 100 tank cars of crude oil regularly pass through upstate New York cities — including Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse — on their way to the Port of Albany. The main CSX rail freight line runs through downtown Rochester and densely populated neighborhoods on either side of it, as well as suburbs such as Gates, Brighton, East Rochester and Perinton. The railroad’s secondary freight line, the West Shore, runs through parts of Chili, Henrietta and Pittsford.

Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney, New York said Wednesday he welcomes the proposed two-person rule even if it only formalizes what has been an industry practice. He said regulators also need to move ahead with a proposed federal rule to retrofit tanker cars to make them safer. “The federal government must also examine transport routes, response plans (and) information-sharing,” Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York said.

Washington bureau reporter Nicole Gaudiano contributed to this report.

btumulty@gannett.com

Twitter: @NYinDC

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2014/04/09/feds-propose-person-crew-trains-carrying-crude-oil/7529903/

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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.