Regulators knew risks before crude oil wrecks

Federal regulators were aware of the dangers involved with transporting crude oil by railcar before a series of accidents in North Dakota and elsewhere sparked calls for stronger safeguards, a new NBC News report finds.

Documents obtained by NBC via the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the government was aware of various problems within the burgeoning industry, “including overloading, mislabeling of highly flammable material and the possible use of unsafe tank cars,” according to the report.

The findings were based on Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) inspections of transportation and loading operations involving crude oil along railways.

“The resulting report, entitled 'North Dakota -- The Next Hazardous Materials Frontier,' noted that train cars were being overloaded, and that pressure to move product meant that some cars that were 'out of specification' were being sent out on the rails anyway," NBC News’ Lisa Riordan Seville writes. “Companies were also mislabeling the hazard level of oil they were shipping, describing it as less flammable than it actually was.”

The FRA report also said a shortage of tank cars was a major concern.

The accidents have prompted calls for increased regulation. The Transportation Department said this week that new rules would be finalized in 2015.

Check out the full NBC News report here.