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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Oregon senators introduce bill to improve safety of oil trains


U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that calls for new rules that would improve the safety of transporting crude oil by rail.

The senators introduced the Mandate Oil Spill Inspections and Emergency Rules (MOSIER) Act, which is named after Mosier, Ore., where a Union Pacific Railroad crude-oil train derailed last month. The incident caused a spill and fire in the Columbia River Gorge area.

The senators' bill would:
• require the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate major oil train derailments and provide the resources to hire more investigators;
• clarify the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) authority to implement a moratorium on unit oil trains following an accident to allow for investigations to be completed and safety recommendations implemented; and
• require the U.S. Department of transportation to develop a standard that would reduce volatile gases in crude oil.

"We need long-term solutions that will keep communities safe," said Merkley. "Every accident needs to be fully and independently investigated."

The FRA needs the authority to enforce moratoriums until identified problems are fully resolved, Merkley added.

"And the highly explosive Bakken crude needs to be stabilized before it rolls through our communities," he said.

Wyden said the bill would ensure that "federal authorities can stop trains after a major derailment until a thorough investigation has been completed, and that the NTSB has ample resources to closely examine the root causes of such a crash."

Some elected leaders in Oregon have expressed concern that the NTSB was not involved in the Mosier derailment investigation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/15/2016