Feds seek new rules to mitigate oil train derailments

Feds seek new rules to mitigate oil train derailments
© AP

Federal regulators are proposing new rules aimed at mitigating the effects of derailments, spills and explosions of oil trains.

The regulation from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) would strengthen the standards for railroads’ spill response plans, along with those for sharing information about oil train movements with state and tribal governments.


“Incidents involving crude oil can have devastating consequences to local communities and the environment. We've taken more than 30 actions in the last two years to continue to address risk, and we continue to push the industry to do more to prevent derailments from happening,” Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxHillicon Valley: Uber, Lyft agree to take California labor win nationwide | Zoom to implement new security program along with FTC | Virgin Hyperloop completes first test ride with passengers Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE said in a statement late Wednesday.

“This rule goes one step further to hold industry accountable to plan and prepare for the worst case scenario,” he said. “It would help to ensure that railroads have comprehensive plans to respond to derailments when they occur and better ensure the safety of communities living near railroads.”

It’s the latest step in a years-long effort by the Obama administration to dramatically improve the safety of oil movement by rail.

It follows a string of major oil train disasters, like a crash and explosion that killed 47 in Quebec in 2013, and an Oregon derailment and fire last month right next to the Columbia River.

The increase in disasters has come about due to growth in oil train traffic, spurred by a major increase oil production in both the United States and Canada.

Wednesday’s proposal would specific increase the types of trains carrying oil and other highly flammable substances that would have to prepare comprehensive spill plans, many of which currently only have to prepare basic plans.

It would also codify information sharing requirements with state and tribal governments, to comply with mandates Congress passed last year in Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act highway bill.

PHMSA is accepting comments from the public on the proposal for 60 days, at which point it will consider the comments before making the rule final.