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Rail News: Safety

Iowa unveils study aimed at preventing rail-related crude oil, biofuel spills


The Iowa departments of Transportation, Homeland Security and Emergency Management have released a study that focuses on initiatives designed to improve railroad safety and prevent or prepare for potential crude oil and biofuel spills.

Released last week, the study was developed over the past year to assess potential risks of railroad accidents that result in oil or biofuel spills, and to propose measures to minimize those risks, state officials said in a press release issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, the study addressed four main topic areas: prevention of spills, preparedness in the event of a spill, response to an incident and recovery from an incident.

"Rather than working to impose additional rules or regulations on the transportation of these materials, as is being done in other states, we decided to work with the railroads, producers, and the emergency management community to see what procedures and resources are already in place and how those can be strengthened in Iowa," said Tamara Nicholson, director of IDOT's Office of Rail Transportation.

No crude oil shipments currently originate or terminate in Iowa. However, substantial quantities of crude oil shipments that originate in other states pass through Iowa on their way to their destination, the study's authors noted.

According to the study:
• A majority of the 4 billion gallons of ethanol produced in Iowa in 2015 was shipped by rail;
• 2 billion gallons of crude oil was shipped by rail through Iowa in 2014;
• 3,851 miles of railroad-owned track runs through Iowa; and
• eight railroads haul crude or biofuels in Iowa.

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More News from 4/27/2016