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Seattle council calls on USDOT to ban legacy tank cars now; BNSF and GATX to conduct tank-car training seminar in North Dakota


Nine Seattle council members signed a letter last week calling for U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to issue an emergency order prohibiting the shipment of Bakken crude in legacy "DOT-111" tank cars.

The city council is the first in the nation to support a petition filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club and ForestEthics seeking to ban the usage of the cars now, Seattle council members said in a press release.

"Dozens of people have died in crude-by-rail accidents when DOT-111 tank cars were punctured and spilled flammable crude," said Councilman Mike O'Brien in a press release. "The catastrophic explosions can be triggered by a single spark and yet they travel on tracks underneath downtown and flanking both Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. Seattle cannot afford to sit idly by with public safety in our city at risk."

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation last week proposed new rules that would phase out the use of DOT-111 cars in two years, the petition seeks to ban the cars immediately.
BNSF Railway Co. reports moving eight to 13 trains of crude per week through Seattle, all containing 1 million or more gallons of Bakken crude, council members said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on Friday announced they will host a rail-car safety training seminar Oct. 6-8 in Fargo, N.D., in partnership with BNSF and GATX Corp.

Local rail workers and emergency responders will receive training at the event using GATX's TankTrainer™ and Classroom Car. The TankTrainer program is part of GATX's ongoing efforts to educate industry professionals on important tank-car features.

A 33,500-gallon tank car outfitted with various fittings, coatings and configurations, the TankTrainer enables trainees to access a tank car's interior and exterior for a hands-on exercises. The Classroom Car is a climate-controlled facility used by GATX personnel to provide training courses.
"North Dakotans are rightly concerned about the safety of our communities, and we’ve been working hard to bring together key figures, including BNSF, federal and state officials, to ensure the safe operation of our railroads," Hoeven and Heitkamp said in a joint statement. "This upcoming training will be a valuable opportunity to provide first responders with information they can use to better protect our communities and themselves."

BNSF is co-hosting the training seminar as part of its ongoing hazardous materials training program for communities that's designed to aid local emergency responders in how to prepare for and respond to possible haz-mat transportation incidents. BNSF’s haz-mat professionals have trained more than 700 North Dakota emergency services personnel over the past few years and plan to hold nine additional training events in the state this year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/28/2014