DOT orders older rail cars not be used for Bakken oil

The Department of Transportation (DOT) said Wednesday that some large shipments of crude oil by rail should only use newer tank cars and railroads must notify officials in each state where the trains will travel.

The order applies to trains carrying more than 1 million gallons of oil — which would fill about 35 tank cars — from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, Montana and Canada. Railroads should use the most advanced tankers in their fleets for those shipments and avoid using legacy cars from the DOT 111 standard, DOT said.

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DOT’s advisory comes during an uptick in major accidents involving trains carrying oil. Crude-by-rail shipments have increased in recent years due to activity in the Bakken formation.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) called the order “a step in the right direction.”

“All communities along the rails deserve to know that necessary precautions are being taken to improve the safety of crude oil shipments, and as a result, make sure our communities are safe,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “Providing states and first responders with the information they need to plan for potential events is an important first step.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) applauded the announcement as a “crucial first step” to increase the safety of crude-by-rail.

“This federal requirement that information be shared directly with the state opens the door for this potentially life-saving info to be shared with local first responders, which should happen as soon as possible,” Schumer said in a statement.