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Rail News: Safety
Crude by rail: McCown offers to lend hand in California debate; AAR stresses railroads' safety efforts
Former Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Brigham McCown has offered to bring both sides to the table concerning a growing debate over the safety of transporting crude oil by rail through California communities.
Once the nation's top energy transportation safety regulator, McCown from 2005 to 2007 served as the first acting head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) under former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. Currently president and chief executive officer of public policy advisory firm Nouveau Inc., McCown is offering to help state, regional and local agencies resolve crude-by-rail issues constructively.
"It is imperative we establish an open and transparent dialogue between railroads, regulatory agencies, first responders and the general public when transporting oil by rail," he said in a press release. "I welcome the opportunity to work with all stakeholders in order to create viable solutions for us all. Our energy transportation challenges can be solved by educating, training and leveraging innovative technologies."
During his PHMSA tenure, McCown oversaw the safe and secure movement of more than 1 million hazardous materials shipments daily by train, truck, vessel, pipeline and air.
"Ensuring safety must remain our top priority, and we must ensure complete transparency between all involved," he said.
Meanwhile, Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger today touted the many steps freight railroads are taking to boost CBR safety. During a speech at a rail industry event, he reiterated the industry’s call for the federal government to increase tank-car standards, and reviewed how railroads have conducted a top-to-bottom review of their operations and updated aspects of their operations in light of increased volumes.
"In any discussion of crude by rail, safety and reliability are key factors in understanding how important rail has become to North America's push for energy independence," said Hamberger, according to a press release. "A strong safety culture is embedded in the railroads, and has long been a core attribute of the railroading industry – from planning and training to prevention and preparedness."
The safety of tank cars used to move crude must be enhanced and shippers should be ensured oil shipments are properly classified, he said.
"Railroads are taking multiple steps to further increase the safety of transporting crude oil, but more can be done when it comes to the tank cars used to haul it," Hamberger said. "Railroads believe that federal tank-car standards should be raised to ensure crude oil and other flammable liquids are moving in the safest car possible based on the product they are moving. The industry also wants the existing crude oil fleet upgraded through retrofits, or older cars to be phased out as quickly as possible."
The rail industry has also stepped up efforts to communicate and coordinate with communities and first responders, and railroads are dedicating "tremendous resources" to prevent and prepare for emergency situations all along their lines, he said.
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.