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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Sen. Schumer calls on FRA, PHMSA to address 'dangerous' DOT-111 tank cars


U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) urging the regulators to require companies transporting crude oil and hazardous materials by rail to create a plan to retrofit or phase out older models of DOT-111 tank cars.

The cars have proven to be "flawed" and a factor in haz-mat spills during derailments, and were involved in the recent BNSF Railway Co. derailment in North Dakota, Schumer wrote. In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board has cited the design of the DOT-111 tank car as a major factor in the 2009 Cherry Valley, Ill., train accident and haz-mat release, and has recommended either a redesign or replacement of the cars, he said.

"Currently, freight lines that run from parts of upstate New York south through New Jersey, just across the river from New York City, potentially have hundreds of DOT-111 cars carrying crude oil or ethanol each day along their tracks, and there are plans on the table to build new tracks and offloading facilities to accommodate even more cars due to the boom in shale oil production," Schumer wrote.

The FRA and PHMSA need to complete rulemakings that will impose requirements on freight railroads to phase out or retrofit the tank cars to avoid potential explosions, oil spills or "other dangerous occurrences," he said.

"The recent crash in Lac-Mégantic and explosion in North Dakota, combined with the increased number of trains carrying oil and other hazardous material down the Hudson, are cause for serious concern," Schumer wrote. "If one of these cars were to fail, it could result in oil flooding into the Hudson River or Port of New York, sullying our waterways and gumming up our economy, or potentially even a major, deadly explosion."