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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA reminds railroads to heed crude-related emergency order


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) again has sent a letter to railroads that transport crude oil stressing that they must continue to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) and Tribal Emergency Response Commissions of the expected movement of Bakken oil trains through individual states and tribal regions.

Since May 2014, trains carrying 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude — or about 35 tank cars — have been subject to the FRA's emergency order.

"Transparency is a critical piece of the federal government’s comprehensive approach to safety … [and] the USDOT is committed to making certain that states and local officials have the information they need to prepare for and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials, including crude oil," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release. "The emergency order that requires these notifications still stands, and we expect railroads to fully comply."

The emergency order also directs railroads to include estimated volumes of crude, the frequency of anticipated train traffic and a train's route. Contact information for at least one individual at the host railroad must be provided, as well, FRA officials said.

"We strongly support transparency and public notification to the fullest extent possible. Railroads transporting crude oil must continue to provide the information required by the emergency order to SERCs and to update notifications in a timely manner," said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. "The FRA will continue with random spot checks and regular compliance audits to ensure that states, local communities and first responders have the information necessary to respond to a possible accident. The FRA also will take enforcement actions as necessary to ensure compliance."

In May, the USDOT released a tank-car safety rule governing the safety of transporting crude by rail. The rule requires stronger tank cars and various safety features on tank cars, such as electronically controlled pneumatic brakes — a provision that's opposed by the rail industry.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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