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Rail News: Safety

Three senators call on federal regulators to improve crude-by-rail safety


U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) asking the regulator to release information on rail inspections pertaining to where a BNSF Railway Co. train recently derailed near Casselton, N.D.

Four derailments have occurred in the Casselton area in the past nine years, and the FRA needs to review track quality near the community, Heitkamp said in a press release.

She requested that the FRA provide information on how frequently rail lines were inspected near the Casselton switch point; if special attention was given to the track area; what future actions will be taken to ensure adequate track inspections are conducted; and if the agency would consider deploying the Automatic Track Inspection Program in the region.

"It is important for me and the people of North Dakota to understand what actions were taken before the derailment, and to determine the current quality of the rails in this area in particular," said Heitkamp.

Yesterday, Heitkamp and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Cynthia Quarterman to discuss rail safety in the area.

Meanwhile, Sens. John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent letters to Foxx and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz urging prompt and decisive action on crude transportation safety due to what's become a series of oil train derailments.

Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Wyden, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, asked the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Department of Energy to launch an investigation. The aims of the investigation: to thoroughly understand the current and future volumes of crude shipped by rail; evaluate crude types to understand whether they require special precautions and handling; analyze and update safety requirements to ensure they adequately address risks; and finalize a USDOT rule to implement a risk reduction program.

"The recent derailments and accidents involving crude oil are alarming and demand increased vigilance," the senators wrote. "We urge you to work together to quickly resolve issues with the transportation of crude oil in order to protect our communities, and prevent any further disasters."