Saturday, January 25, 2014

Transportation safety board recommends tougher standards for shipping crude oil by rail

On Thursday the National Transportation Safety Board said "that transportation regulators should work with railroads to reroute oil trains and should ensure that railroads have plans in place to handle 'worst-case' accidents or spills. It also called for new testing practices for oil being shipped by rail, in the wake of several serious accidents recently in which crude oil exploded after trains derailed," Besty Morris, Paul Vieria and Laura Stevens report for The Wall Street Journal. More crude oil was spilled in U.S. railway accidents in 2013 than in the previous 37 years. The Association of American Railroads urged U.S. regulators in November to require retrofits and upgrades for nearly 100,000 cars.

In 2008, about 9,500 carloads of crude oil traveled by rail, but the number surged to 400,000 last year, Clifford Krauss and Jad Mouawad report for The New York Times. Domestic oil production is also on the rise, at 7.5 million barrels a day in 2013, an increase of 50 percent in the last five years. Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the NTSB, told the Times, “This is an industry that has developed overnight, and they have been playing catch-up with the infrastructure. A lot of what we’ve seen could have been a lot worse.” (Read more)

The NTSB, which can't enforce its recommendations, said "they stem from findings of the investigation into the July derailment of a crude-oil train that destroyed much of Lac-M├ęgantic, Quebec, and killed 47 people," the Journal reports. Canada's Transportation Safety Board has issued a similar set of safety recommendations.

The NTSB called on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration "to require shippers not only to test but to document the physical and chemical characteristics of their hazardous shipments. Currently, it said, shippers don't have to keep records of testing," the Journal reports. "It said shippers aren't required to provide documentation of how they determined the classification." (Read more)

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