WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSAU) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced new rules to improve railroad safety. The new guidelines were developed in light of recent derailments, including some that caused fires and evacuations due to trains of oil heading for refineries.
Congressman Ron Kind is glad to see the department propose changes, but is disappointed there aren’t more new regulations. “The rules are heading in the right direction. I don’t think they go far enough. It does call for an upgrade of the railcars that are being used, and get away from the old cars that have been very prone to puncturing, and therefore explosions. They would also slow the train speeds that are coming through communities down to at least 40 miles an hour.”
The D.O.T.’s proposed rules includes enhanced tank car standards, and the phasing out of the older “DOT-111” tank cars within 2 years. Transportation officials also want a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids. The D.O.T. hasn’t indicated if the “DOT-111” cars could be reclassified for non-flammable loads.
Kind believes the railroads need to do more to improve safety. “We still need enhanced track inspection. We still need the railroads to upgrade the tracks so they are as safe as they can be.”
Government guidelines require railroads to report to the states when they have trains with a large shipment of oil. The federal order defines a large shipment of oil as a train with over one million gallons. That’s approximately 30 tank cars or more before emergency management has to be informed. Kind wants more of that information available to the public. “Now, the railroads only have to report to emergency responders, first responders and not to the community at large. I think we should be opening that information up.”
Kinds says hauling oil from the Bakken oil fields could be safer, if an additive were in every load of oil. “There’s also a stabilizing agent that can help stabilize the highly-flammable, highly-toxic Bakken oil that’s coming through. It doesn’t cost that much. Texas already requires it down there. We should be doing the same thing.”
The Department of Transportation just issued their proposed rule changes. A 60-day public comment period is now open.
The railroads are seeing additional pressures from the market as well. The large number of trains carrying oil have made it difficult in some regions to move other things, including farm commodities and coal because of the increased train traffic.