GOP senator blasts rail cars regs delays

A Republican senator expressed disappointment Wednesday in the Department of Transportation's decision to delay stronger regulations for rail cars that are carrying oil.

Sen. John Hoeven (D-N.D.) said he is considering legislation that would speed up the regulations for rail cars. He also plans to meet with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell and industry leaders to determine a more appropriate timeline for new rail car regulations.

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“The federal agencies working on this issue need to devote the necessary resources to get it done in a timely way,” he said in a statement.

This comes after a train carrying oil derailed last month in North Dakota and spilled more than 400,000 gallons of crude oil in the senator's home state, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The Department of Transportation was considering rules that would strengthen safeguards for rail cars that are carrying oil since before the North Dakota spill, but it put more pressure on the agency to step up enforcement.

For years, the NTSB has said the current rail car model, DOT-111, is too weak with only 15 percent of the fleet used to transport flammable liquids ready to meet industry standards, according to the Association of American Railroads.

The new rules could include a requirement for a thicker shell on rail cars, so if they tip over they are less likely to be punctured and lead to a spill.

However, the Transportation Department announced Wednesday that the rules would not come out until next year, to the dismay of Hoeven.

Democrats and environmental groups have been calling for stronger protections, while Hoeven wants those new rules to come out sooner rather than later so industry has more time to prepare.

“We are concerned that unless DOT provides guidance sooner, the timeline will be too long for industry to transition to newer, safer tanker cars in a timely way,” Hoeven said. “We initially asked for expedited rules in December 2012, and now we are learning that the finalized rule won’t be ready for another year. Industry needs regulatory certainty to make the investments necessary to move forward.”

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