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Four Democratic U.S. senators this week introduced legislation aimed at improving the safety of crude-by-rail transportation.The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015 would require the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt the use of older-model tank cars that have been shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments, the senators said in a press release.The bill was introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).The bill would:• require PHMSA standards for volatility of gases in crude oil hauled by rail;• immediately ban the use of DOT-111 and unjacketed CPC-1232 tank cars;• require new tank car design standards that include 9/16th-inch shells, thermal protection, pressure relief valves and electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes;• increase fines on railroads that violate hazardous materials laws and establish new fines for railroads and energy companies that don't comply with safety laws;• authorize funding for first responder training, equipment and emergency preparedness, as well as for increased rail inspections and energy product testing;• mandate railroads to establish a confidential close-call reporting system; and• require railroads to disclose crude-by-rail movements to state emergent response commissions and local emergency planning committees along hazmat rail routes."This legislation will help reduce the risk of explosion in accidents, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and ensure first responders have the equipment they need," said Cantwell, ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "We can’t afford to wait for 10 accidents per year, as estimated by the Department of Transportation."The senators said the legislation was introduced as a result of four derailments involving oil trains since early February. U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) introduced a similar measure (H.R. 1679) in the House yesterday.
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