Another oil train derails, as new rules approach

Scott Tong Mar 6, 2015
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Another oil train derails, as new rules approach

Scott Tong Mar 6, 2015
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For the third time in three weeks, a train carrying crude oil derailed. This time, 21 cars derailed in western Illinois. No injuries or water pollution have been reported, but the incidents are turning up the pressure on federal regulators to craft new rules that accommodate both the petroleum boom and public safety.

Federal rules are due in May. A chief area of debate is tank cars. Industry prefers a revamped version of an existing model, known as CPC-1232. But that type of rail car, specifically one without a safety “jacket,” leaked the last two incidents.

“The unjacketed 1232’s seem increasingly likely to be part of the phase-out based on the recent events,” says analyst Kevin Book of Clear View Energy Partners.

Book expects stricter rules in general, ones that go farther than industry would like. Yet the regulatory conversation does not go far enough for Sean Dixon of the New York nonprofit Riverkeeper. He cites oil train speed limits. The currently acceptable limit is 40 miles per hour.

“We’ve seen seen accident after accident happen below 40 miles an hour,” Dixon says. “Below 20 miles per hour in many cases.”

Also not on the regulatory table, critics say: track standards, bridge safety, and oil train accident insurance. Right now, a giant accident would not be fully covered by insurance, so the public would hold the financial bag.

 

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