By Justin Mikulka - DeSmog Blog, February 14, 2014
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.
Since the oil train explosion in Lac-Megantic in July of 2013, we have learned that there are some obvious safety issues that need to be addressed regarding transportation of crude oil by rail. The first is that the majority of the rail cars transporting this oil are DOT-111’s which have been deemed unsafe due to their tendency to rupture in accidents. The second is that Bakken crude oil can be explosive and isn’t being properly classified for transport.
Since Lac-Megantic we have heard many calls for increased rail safety. In August of 2013, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to the Federal Railway Adminstration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Adminstration (PHMSA) requesting that the agency begin a phase out of the DOT-111 rail cars. Senator Schumer also referenced a March 2012 letter written by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah Hersman requesting safety upgrades to existing DOT-111 rail cars.
On January 15th, 2014, Representative Corrinne Brown (D-FL) wrote a letter to Jeff Denham (R-CA), who is Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Wastes Congressional Subcommittee, requesting a hearing be held regarding rail safety. In her letter she mentions that several members of the Subcommittee have already written letters requesting a hearing on rail safety as far back as August 2013. Brown wrote:
“Again, we urge the subcommittee to hold a hearing immediately on rail safety. We believe the hearing should, at a minimum, include representatives from the NTSB, FRA, PHMSA, the rail industry, and rail labor. Thank you in advance for consideration of this request.”
Additionally, there are concerned elected officials across the country who have requested action on rail safety. Even Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago has joined the chorus of people requesting improved rail safety.
Last week, the PHMSA released the first results regarding the testing of Bakken Crude. This testing began in November 2013 and is one of the few changes that have been made since the explosion in Lac-Megantic. The results were not good as over 50% of the samples taken were found to be improperly classified. The offenders paid fines ranging from $12,000 to $51,530.