Feds require removal of oil train parts involved in leaks


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is ordering freight rail companies to remove faulty parts it says have been involved in multiple oil train leaks recently. 

The agency said the parts, which are valves that were manufactured by Tennessee-based company McKenzie Valve & Machining LLC, are resulting in “tank cars leaking small quantities of hazardous materials” when they are not properly configured. 

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said it was important that oil train operators use equipment that meets federal regulations after a string of high-profile explosions have raised questions about the safety of shipping large amounts of crude oil by train. 

{mosads}“Ensuring the safe transport of hazardous materials is a top priority for the Department of Transportation,” Foxx said in a statement. “I expect this audit to force a stricter adherence to the structures in place to keep our railways safe.” 

The transportation of crude oil by freight rail has emerged as a contentious issue in Washington. Lawmakers have sought widespread reforms since a pair of 2013 accidents in Casselton, N.D., and Quebec, Canada, spilled thousands of gallons of oil and caused explosions. 

“North Dakota has reaped tremendous economic benefits from our energy boom, but the derailment in Casselton shook our collective community, and there have been more derailments of crude oil trains across the country — including in the past few weeks,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said in a statement this week calling on federal regulators to finalize a slate of new oil train regulations that are still pending. 

The Transportation Department said Friday that “federal regulations require all valves applied to tank cars must be of an approved design by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Tank Car Committee. 

“FRA’s investigations demonstrate clear inconsistencies between the type of valve design that AAR approved versus the design of the valve actually being used, which raises questions about the approval process and a manufacturer’s adherence to an approved design type,” the agency said about the valve is directing freight rail companies to replace. 

The Railroad Administration said it is giving freight rail companies 60 days to replace the faulty oil valves. 

“The Directive requires all tank car owners to remove, within 60 days, any 3 inch McKenzie UNNR ball valves in tank cars used to transport any hazardous material described in 49 CFR 172.101,” the agency said. “Further, the Directive requires all tank car owners to remove the 1 inch and 2 inch valves within 90 days. The Directive requires tank car owners to replace the valves with valves approved for use on railroad tank cars.” 

Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg said the amount of oil that the agency’s investigation found to have leaked because of the banned valves is small, but she said it was important to address the problem now before it grew bigger. 

“Any type of hazardous materials release, no matter how small, is completely unacceptable,” Feinberg said. “The removal of these valves from service will help to reduce the number of non-accident hazardous materials releases.”   

Tags Anthony Foxx Crude Oil Freight Rail Shipments Heidi Heitkamp Oil Train Crashes

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