Railroads to fight oil train rules as another train explodes

Times Union | May 6, 2015 | Post by Eric Anderson

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that the railroad industry plans to challenge new federal rules governing oil train safety that were released last Friday. Charles W. “Wick” Moorman, CEO of Norfolk Southern, said a new regulation requiring electronic pneumatic brakes caught the industry by surprise.

“It is very expensive, it doesn’t work well,” Moorman told The Journal. “We are committed to safety. The last thing in the world we want is a derailment…this technology just doesn’t do anything.”

Moorman’s comments were published on a morning when another oil train derailed and exploded. The 109-car train, operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, derailed in Heimdal, N.D. News reports said the town’s 27 residents were evacuated. It wasn’t immediately clear where the train was heading. No injuries were reported.

According to news reports, the tank cars involved were unjacketed CPC-1232s, which the federal rules would require be phased out by 2020.

In at least one respect, the industry thought the new rules hadn’t gone far enough. Moorman said railroads favored thermal wraps that would protect tank cars from exploding for 800 minutes during a fire, not the 100 minutes that federal regulators settled on.

Another concern: It’s unclear from the rules who would pay for the brakes. The oil tank cars typically are owned by the shippers, not the railroads, yet it is the railroads, not the shippers, that bear responsibility for installing them, he said.

Trains without the new brakes by 2021 would be limited to speeds of no more than 30 mph, or would have to be reduced in length to no more than 69 cars. Either would reduce capacity.

The Capital Region has become a major transshipment point for the flammable Bakken crude from North Dakota, with two major rail lines converging here to use terminals at the Port of Albany. The oil is then shipped by rail, barge or tanker to refineries along the Atlantic Coast.

Earthjustice, an environmental group seeking tighter regulations, issued the following statement from attorney Kristen Boyles:

“Again another derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude. Again another community evacuated and its people counting their blessings this didn’t happen half a mile down the track in the middle of town. Under the Department of Transportation’s new rules, the type of oil tank cars that are burning in Heimdal will stay on the rails for five to eight years. DOT’s new industry-pleasing rule is too weak and too slow. We need to get these exploding death trains off the tracks now.”

The Federal Railroad Administration issued the following statement from Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg:

“A crude oil train has derailed near Heimdal, North Dakota this morning, resulting in a large fire involving several tank cars. The town of Heimdal is being evacuated. The FRA has deployed a ten person investigation team to the site and will be conducting a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident. Today’s incident is yet another reminder of why we issued a significant, comprehensive rule aimed at improving the safe transport of high hazard flammable liquids. The FRA will continue to look at all options available to us to improve safety and mitigate risks.”

The Wall Street Journal story is here.


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commented 2015-05-06 15:33:24 -0400 · Flag
So the exploding CPC-1232’s will be phased out by 2020. Great. At 10 derailments every year, as predicted by the feds, times five years of CPC-1232’s, we can expect fifty (50) FIFTY explosive crashes before these cars are gone. How many people will die? How many children incinerated? How much will the oil companies make over these five years? Would you call it blood money?
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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.