Rail Tanker Safety Regulations Delayed

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 @ 01:01 PM gHale

Final regulations for older freight-rail tank cars transporting ethanol and crude oil ended up delayed, federal officials said.

The rules from the Department of Transportation (DoT) will end up released May 12 instead of March 31st as originally planned.

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The delay comes after railroad industry groups warned in public comments the proposed phase-out of DOT-111 tankers carrying Class 1 flammable materials by October 2017 and a phase-out of those carrying Class 2 liquids by October 2018 will lead to shortages of tank cars.

In a joint filing, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) contend the tank car industry doesn’t have the capacity to retrofit the estimated 143,000 tank cars that would have to end up modernized to meet the new specifications. Nor can manufacturers build new tank cars fast enough, they said.

About 70 percent of crude oil shipped to refineries from the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota and Montana — and 70 percent of ethanol shipped to refineries — ends up transported by rail, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade group representing 120 U.S. refineries.

A string of rail car accidents has prompted calls for safety upgrades.

There have been at least nine oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada since March 2013, many of them resulting in intense fires and sometimes the evacuation of nearby residents, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). One of the latest occurred in May last year when a CSX train carrying Bakken crude derailed in downtown Lynchburg, VA, sending three tank cars into the James River and shooting flames and black smoke into the air. No one suffered an injury, but the wreck prompted an evacuation of nearby buildings.

Concern about the safe transport of crude oil heightened after a runaway oil train derailed and then exploded last July in the small town of Lac-Megantic in Canada, just across the border from Maine. More than 60 tank cars spilled more than 1.3 million gallons of oil. Forty-seven people died and 30 buildings ended up destroyed in resulting blaze.

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