The Obama Administration called for new rules in how the U.S. regulates trains that carry large amounts of crude cross country, in an attempt to cut the amount of derailments that have flamed fears about such trains travelling cross country.
The proposed rules mandate that older, less structurally-sound rail cars are phased out of use over the next two to five years, and also looks at slower speed limits, higher performance brake mechanisms, and requirements that railroads share data with state emergency officials, all of which would highlight concerns about Bakken crude, which is most likely to ignite than other types of crude.
So far, the proposed rules leave absent some major rules that address safety advocates: reduction in the vapors from crude before loading it into rail cars. Such vapors likely result in the ignition of Bakken crude, making the vapors a key reason why the crude is more likely to ignite.
“We need a new world order on how this stuff moves,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters in making the announcement, which his department issued roughly two weeks after the first anniversary of a horrific derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
“More crude oil is being shipped by rail than ever before,” Foxx said. “If America is going to be a world leader in producing energy, our job at this department is to ensure that we’re also a world leader in safely transporting it.”
Also quick to join in the debate were environmentalists, who called for an immediate ban on the oldest cars in the fleet, cars that are the most spill prone and not as strong as newer built cars.
“The public demands that the federal government crack down on automakers where there is a serious safety risk,” said Patti Goldman, an attorney for the group Earthjustice, which filed a petition with Foxx last week on behalf of clients including the Sierra Club. “We should do the same for the oil industry.”
The oil industry, meanwhile, has lobbied hard to ease some of the strictest, heaviest changes to the proposals- such as slowing crude trains down. They also fought the study that identifies Bakken crude as being more volatile, but Foxx released new data on the DOT's testing of Bakken crude, showing Bakken crude has higher vapor pressure, lower ignition point, thus is more volatile.