February 20, 2015

Sens. Warner And Kaine Urge Timely Release Of Long-Awaited Regulations For Trains Hauling Bakken Crude Oil

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine today urged federal regulators to move quickly to finalize and publish new safety regulations on oil trains. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently considering proposed new regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), but final regulations are not expected to be released until this spring. In urging OMB to act sooner rather than later, Sens. Warner and Kaine pointed to last weekend’s oil train derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, and to the April 30, 2014 derailment in Lynchburg, Va. In both instances, rail tanker cars were carrying Bakken crude oil to an oil shipping depot in Yorktown, Va.

“We must enact new, stronger standards for these tank cars that carry dangerous materials through our communities,” Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote in today’s letter. “The sooner these standards are in place, the sooner manufacturers can bring safer tank cars to market. Until then, the industry continues to wait for clearer direction, and thousands of Virginians along this route bear the risk of future accidents.”

One week after the Lynchburg derailment, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged USDOT to issue regulations requiring the strongest possible tank cars, and to require railroads transporting Bakken crude oil to notify emergency response officials in the communities along the rail corridor. In addition, Sen. Warner convened more than 80 local, state and federal officials in Richmond in June 2014 to discuss ways to make transporting crude oil by rail safer.

The full text of the letter appears below, and a PDF of the letter is available here.

February 20, 2015

Mr. Howard Shelanski

Administrator

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

Dear Administrator Shelanski:

In light of this week’s accident involving a train transporting Bakken crude oil, we write to urge you to prioritize your review of the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed regulations regarding operational controls for high-hazard flammable trains.

On February 16, 2015, a 109-unit CSX train carrying 3 million gallons of crude oil derailed in West Virginia.  The accident caused a large explosion and fire involving 19 cars, burned one home to the ground, forced the evacuation of two towns and temporarily closed two nearby water treatment plants.  The train was bound for an oil shipping depot in Yorktown, Virginia, and was following the same route where a train derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, last year, which resulted in a spill of 20,000 gallons of crude oil into the James River.  In Virginia, we now see near-daily crude oil unit trains traveling from one end of Virginia to the other, moving through several populated areas and raising well-justified concerns from residents about the risks to their communities.  In the aftermath of the Lynchburg accident, we heard not just from Lynchburg first responders but also those from other communities—as well as other constituents, experts, and stakeholders—with concerns about the safe transport of crude oil by rail and the availability of resources and training to respond to potential future incidents.

In response to these and other high-profile rail accidents, DOT has developed, and submitted to your office, regulations that would strengthen standards for tank cars used in transporting crude oil by rail.  Much attention has focused on the older DOT-111 tank cars involved in several accidents in recent years.  However, in both of the incidents above, the tank cars that ruptured were newer CPC-1232 models.  We must enact new, stronger standards for these tank cars that carry dangerous materials through our communities.  The sooner these standards are in place, the sooner manufacturers can bring safer tank cars to market.  Until then, the industry continues to wait for clearer direction, and thousands of Virginians along this route bear the risk of future accidents. 

The final DOT rule was originally slated for a March 2015 publication date, but we understand that deadline has now slipped to May.  We strongly urge you to make every effort to complete your review as soon as possible.  Although regulations cannot prevent every future accident, stronger tank car standards certainly can help limit the impact of explosions, fires and oil spills that result from a derailment.  Thank you for your attention to this matter, and for your continued support of regulations that improve our nation’s safety. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark R. Warner

U.S. Senator

 

Tim Kaine

U.S. Senator