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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Sen. Murray: FY2015 appropriations bill would set USDOT deadline for tank-car rule, fund short-line safety institute


The fiscal-year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress over the weekend would set a Jan. 15, 2015, deadline for the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a final rule on new tank-car design standards, said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a press release.

Murray, who chairs the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, also said the bill would mandate comprehensive oil spill response plans for railroads and provide funding for a new Short Line Railroad Safety Institute that would focus on providing safety training for short lines that transport crude oil and ethanol.

"In Washington state, we've seen a startling increase in oil train traffic through communities of all sizes, from downtown Seattle to smaller, rural communities across the state. That's why I worked to set a deadline for the Department of Transportation to issue new safety standards for tank cars next month and worked to fund a Short Line Railroad Safety Institute that will help protect smaller communities without sufficient resources to respond to oil trains," said Murray.

In addition, the bill would provide $10 million in grants to improve safety at grade crossings that accommodate crude or flammable liquid shipments; call for the hiring of 15 new hazardous materials and rail safety inspectors; allocate $3 million to expand the use of automated track inspections to ensure proper track maintenance on crude oil routes that cover 14,000 miles of track nationwide; and require the creation of a web-based hazardous materials emergency response training program to help tribes and local agencies prepare for potential rail accidents involving crude.

The legislation also would mandate continued research into crude's volatility, and require bulk tank-car design standards for cars carrying liquefied natural gas and retrofits of existing tank cars to meet stronger safety standards.