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USDOT Issues New Rules For Trains Carrying Crude Oil

After an accident in June in which eleven cars from an oil train derailed in Oregon, the US Department of Transportation has proposed a new set of rules for train cars carrying crude oil. In the 3 June incident, one of the cars caught fire.

Residents of Mosier, Oregon, were evacuated, and 42,000 gallons of crude were spilled near the Columbia River, with only a few gallons spilled into the river. At the time of the accident, officials from Union Pacific, which owned the train carrying the crude, blamed the accident on the failure of lag bolts which connect the rails and tracks. Oregon Department of Transportation Administrator Hal Gard said that the bolts in question were rusted and had sheared off prior to the incident. State officials have expressed concern that because the crude oil cars are heavier and shorter, they may be putting more pressure on the tracks.

The new rules from the USDOT came out on Wednesday and are designed to address the response to spills for carriers hauling crude. Rail carriers would be required to have spill plans for the maximum potential amount of oil spilled, and would have to notify state and tribal governments about the number of cars carrying crude oil that would pass through an area on a weekly basis, the route the trains would travel, and any hazardous cargo the trains would be carrying.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated: “This rule goes one step further to hold industry accountable to plan and prepare for the worst case scenario. It would help to ensure that railroads have comprehensive plans to respond to derailments when they occur and better ensure the safety of communities living near railroads.” The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration was also a part of the rule-making process.

Two Senators from Oregon, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, have already introduced the MOSIER ACT, named after the town in which the spill occurred. The name stands for Mandate Oil Inspections and Emergency Rules. The act has three major points: the National Transportation and Safety would be required to conduct investigations into major derailments of oil trains and allocate $2 million for the needed staff; the Federal Railroad Administration would have the power to issue moratoriums on oil trains following derailments; and the USDOT would be required to set a volatility standard for crude oil.

Lincoln Brown for Oilprice.com

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