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Rail News: Safety

Crude by rail: Oregon seeks more safety resources; NS files suit to stop Maryland from publicly releasing shipment info


Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber late last week released a report on crude-by-rail safety in the state that calls for an increase in state rail inspectors, additional funding for emergency responder training, and improved reporting and transparency on crude resources.

Earlier this year, Kitzhaber directed his staff and state agencies to complete a statewide review of oil-train safety following a significant increase in the amount of Bakken Shale crude being transported by rail in Oregon as well as nationwide.

The report determined that if Bakken crude remains classified the same as other crude oil, then railroads should provide notification to emergency responders for all crude transported by rail. In addition, the number of safety inspectors employed by the Oregon Department of Transportation's Rail Division should be increased, and the state's rules and statutes should be updated to reflect the shift in commodities traveling by rail in the state, the report found.

Moreover, funding to support emergency responder training should be increased, and more information from railroads needs to be provided so state and local emergency coordinators can determine equipment requirements in areas where oil trains travel, the report states. The governor's recommended budget for 2015-17 will include additional funding for emergency responder training, Kitzhaber said in a press release.

"We’ve seen a dramatic increase in crude oil moving along Oregon’s railways over just a few short years. I believe we need a targeted statewide response to ensure Oregon has the safest rail system possible," he said. "To that end, I've called on state agencies to dedicate resources to enhancing rail safety and improving our response capabilities in the event of an emergency. I've also called on railroads to improve communication with emergency responders, and I'll continue to push the federal government for guidelines and regulations that promote the safest transport possible."

Meanwhile, Norfolk Southern Railway last week filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City seeking to prevent the state of Maryland from publicly releasing information about the railroad's crude shipments. The Maryland Department of the Environment had given NS until July 24 to challenge its decision to release such information.

NS officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, which claims the state signed a confidentiality agreement in May. The public release of crude shipment information would jeopardize shipment security, NS officials believe. The Class I is seeking both a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to prevent the release of the information.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/29/2014