More Oil Train Accidents, Spills Likely Without Swift Regulation

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Department of Transportation must issue immediate ban on the dangerous cars.

WASHINGTON— A new U.S. Government Accountability Office report issued this week concludes current proposals to upgrade safety requirements for oil transport by rail and pipeline are likely to fall short of preventing more accidents and spills unless the pace of regulation is stepped up. The recent North American oil boom, driven by new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), has been responsible for an exponential increase in oil transportation and infrastructure throughout the United States. But a spate of fiery derailments and devastating oil spills has escalated public concern about the mounting dangers associated with rapidly increased oil production and intensified calls for stricter rules to govern oil transport.

“This report underscores the fact that the Department of Transportation is moving far too slowly to protect lives and safeguard our environment,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For starters, the notoriously unsafe DOT-111 tank cars need to be banned immediately from shipping highly flammable Bakken crude oil. We can’t afford to wait another five years.”

The Department is currently accepting public comments on a proposed rule to phase out DOT-111 tank cars for hauling “Bakken” crude oil from North Dakota. For 20 years safety experts have identified these tank cars as unsafe for shipping flammable and hazardous materials, but only since several explosive train wrecks in the past year, one of which killed nearly four dozen people, has the Department acted to actually take the cars out of use. Concerned citizens, at-risk communities along the rail lines and environmental groups, among others, want the Department to act more aggressively to take the tank cars off the rails now instead of waiting up to five years.

 

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