U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine along with 19 other Senators sent a letter calling on the Senate Appropriations Committee to support robust investment for a Safe Transportation of Energy Products program to address increasing safety concerns related to the transportation of Bakken crude and other energy products. One week after an April 30, 2014 oil train derailment in Lynchburg, Warner and Kaine urged USDOT to issue regulations requiring the strongest possible tank cars and to require railroads transporting Bakken crude oil to notify emergency response officials in the communities along the rail corridor. Last month, they urged federal regulators to move quickly to finalize and publish new safety regulations on oil trains.
In today’s letter, the Senators also called for increased funding for crude-by-rail safety efforts conducted by agencies such as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Substances Administration (PHMSA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
“The rail system in the United States has seen a massive increase in crude-by-rail since 2007 driven in large part by remarkable increases in energy development,” the Senators wrote. “In light of several tragic accidents involving crude-by-rail trains – including the most recent derailments and explosions of tanker cars carrying crude oil in West Virginia and Illinois – communities stretching across our country from the Midwest to coastal ports and refineries are rightly concerned about the safe movement of these combustible products.”
Warner and Kaine were joined by Senators Maria Cantwell, Heidi Heitkamp, Dick Durbin, Tammy Baldwin, Ron Wyden, Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Jeff Merkley, Patrick Leahy, Jon Tester, Richard Blumenthal, Robert Menendez, Bernie Sanders, Chris Coons, Ben Cardin, and Joe Manchin.
Five years ago, very little crude oil was hauled by the nation’s railroads. Today, more than 1.1 million barrels per day – with more expected – move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest. There have been four fiery derailments involving oil trains in North America since the start of February.
The Safe Transportation of Energy Products Fund is intended to address current and emerging safety issues related to the transportation of combustible energy products like Bakken Crude. It would include providing additional crude oil route safety managers, inspectors and tank car specialists at FRA, special agents at FMCSA to provide additional oversight of energy product transportation, and additional safety equipment, training, and outreach through PHMSA. Along with these personnel and resource additions, the Local Rail Facilities and Safety Program will provide critical infrastructure improvements to facilities handling tank cars, particularly to small stations.