“Whenever something changes this quickly, it’s worth, I think, federal regulators and state regulators sort of stepping back and just making sure that the existing rules that we have in place are adequate to deal with the changes on the ground,” he said. “This is just happening in a very, very quick time.”
Railroad industry officials deny that regulations need to change just yet.
A spokeswoman with the Association of American Railroads said it was “premature to speculate” about future regulations.
“Canadian investigators have said they still have much to learn, and that the investigation could take months before they fully know all the facts around the cause of the accident,” Holly Arthur said in an email. “We will certainly be following the findings along the way, but do not want to speculate on what may change going forward.”
Earlier this month, as many as 50 people were killed in the Canadian border town of Lac-Mégantic when brakes failed on a runaway train, sending the locomotive skidding off the tracks. The tank cars full of oil exploded during the crash and may have vaporized some of the victims.
Despite the gruesome nature of the recent accident, Bordoff denied that transporting crude oil by train is significantly less safe than sending it via pipeline.
“I think if you look at the data for both pipelines and rail, it’s fair to say they’re both safe,” he said, though pipelines “are, on the margins, a little bit safer.”
According to the railroad association, 99.9977 percent of hazardous materials sent via rail make it to their destinations without incident.
Bordoff left the White House in January and is currently the director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.