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New York AG calls for tougher oil train rules

New York’s attorney general is calling on the federal government to close a “loophole” in the safety rules regarding crude oil transportation by rail.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says the Transportation Department ought to limit the volatility of oil that can be transported on the nation’s rails.

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Citing recent disasters involving oil train derailments in the last two years, Schneiderman said volatility standards are necessary to reduce the chances of oil exploding or catching fire.

“Recent catastrophic rail accidents send a clear warning that we need to do whatever we can to reduce the dangers that crude oil shipments pose to communities across New York State,” he said in a statement.

“The federal government needs to close this extremely dangerous loophole, and ensure that residents of the communities in harm’s way of oil trains receive the greatest possible protection.”

The formal petition filed Wednesday with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration asks that the vapor pressure — a measure of the pressure exerted by the vapor coming off the crude oil — be limited to 9 pounds per square inch for oil movements by rail.

Volatility standards were left out of the Transportation Department’s suite of oil train safety regulations made final in May. Those rules focused instead on construction of the tank cars carrying oil and various operational rules, like speed and braking.

Officials had argued that they lack the authority under current law to regulate volatility of oil carried by train.

Safety and environmental groups, along with some Democrats, have pushed for legislation that would give regulators authority over volatility and obligate them to write rules.

Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing MORE (D-Wash.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Next Congress expected to have record diversity Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs MORE (D-Wis.) led an effort earlier this year to require volatility standards for oil trains.

Crude oil can be more or less volatile depending, among other factors, on where it is drilled. Different research has come to different conclusions about whether oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation — where the oil boom of recent years has been centered — is more volatile than other varieties, and the federal government is currently studying the issue.