Comment period starts for oil-train rules

The Obama administration Friday formally published proposals in the Federal Register to strengthen safety rules for trains carrying crude oil and other fuels, kicking off a two-month period in which the public can comment.

The proposals were prompted chiefly by the recent increase in oil shipped by rail from drilling in North Dakota's Bakken formation, which Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last week necessitates “a new world order on how this stuff moves.” A train carrying crude derailed in Quebec last year, setting off an explosion that killed 47 people.

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed phasing out old rail cars for oil and other flammable liquids like ethanol, implementing new speed and braking standards for the trains and establishing a new testing and classification system for the fuels.

Foxx called the rules “the most significant progress” in protecting the country from explosions caused by trains carrying Bakken crude.

The department said it wants comments on three different possible rules for speed limits and three different options for the thickness of steel on cars.

The DOT also said it was not likely to extend the comment period beyond the 60-day standard, “given the urgency of the safety issues addressed in these proposals.”