Oil Industry Asks Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules

The New York Times | May 12, 2015 | Column by Jad Mouawad

The oil industry is challenging new federal rules intended to improve the safety of oil-by-train transportation, opening the first legal fight in a two-year effort to reduce the risks of moving hazardous materials on railroads.

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main trade group, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block key provisions of the rules, which were unveiled this month by Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary. The petition was filed on Monday.

The trade group, which represents companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, has long argued that forcing oil producers and shippers to use newer tank cars and replace older models would impose high costs on the industry and lead to a shortfall in tank car capacity.

The petition challenges the government’s timeline to upgrade or retrofit older tank cars with new safety features designed to prevent them from spilling oil or rupturing in a derailment. It also challenges a requirement that tank cars be equipped with new electronic braking systems or face operational restrictions.

The growing traffic of crude oil from the Bakken shale region in the northern plains has caused growing alarm after a string of explosions and spills in the last two years. This has prompted the federal government to review the safety of tank cars, particularly older models that have long been known to be unfit to carry hazardous materials.

In announcing the rules, transportation officials said the measures would improve rail safety and reduce the risks of a catastrophic event.

But the rules quickly came under criticism from many sides. Lawmakers and those who advocate for safety measures said the regulations did not go far enough in protecting the public. Railroad industry representatives said some provisions, including the new electronic brakes, would be too costly and would yield too few safety benefits.


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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.