Bustos, Kind, Quigley, Urge Federal Officials To Address Volatility Of Crude Oil Transported By Rail

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Congressman Ron Kind (WI-3) and Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5) urged federal officials to address the volatility of crude oil transported by rail following recent tanker car derailments in Illinois and across the country, including the derailment near Galena, Illinois in March. In a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Anthony Foxx and the Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) Ernest Moniz, the three Members of Congress urged officials to expedite the development of minimum volatility or stabilization standards for crude oil transported by rail in the United States

“In light of several high-profile accidents involving cars carrying crude oil – including a recent derailment and explosion of tanker cars carrying crude oil in Galena, Illinois and another near Heimdal, North Dakota – communities in Wisconsin and Illinois are becoming increasingly concerned about the safe movement of crude, and with good reason,” wrote Bustos, Quigley and Kind. “Therefore, we urge both DOT and the DOE to work together to develop new regulations to address the stabilization of crude oil. There should be an intensive, independent study in conjunction with experts in petroleum and hazardous materials chemistry to determine what actions need to take place to increase safety for all.”

Joining Bustos, Quigley and Kind in sending the letter were Representatives Paul Tonko (NY-20), Mike Thompson (CA-5), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), John Garamendi (CA-3), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Bill Pascrell (NJ-9), Nita Lowey (NY-17) and Bill Foster (IL-11).

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Foxx and Secretary Moniz,

We write today to ask that you expedite the development of minimum volatility or stabilization standards for crude oil transported by rail in the United States.

We appreciate the release of the High Hazardous Flammable Train (HHFT) Rule that took place on Friday, May 1st that addresses some important safety issues related to the transportation of crude; however, we have serious concerns that this rule did not address whether energy producers should be required to remove more of the volatile gases the oil has when extracted from the ground. While there has been action on the state level to require producers to reduce some of these gases before they load the crude into rail tankers, we believe this action doesn’t go far enough and that there should be a national standard.

Until just a few years ago, our nation’s railroads transported very little crude oil. Now, in part due to the boom in oil production from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and other areas, approximately 1.1 million barrels are transported by rail in the United States each day. Last year, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) conducted tests on Bakken crude and found it to have a higher degree of volatility than most other U.S. crudes.

In light of several high-profile accidents involving cars carrying crude oil – including a recent derailment and explosion of tanker cars carrying crude oil in Galena, Illinois and another near Heimdal, North Dakota – communities are becoming increasingly concerned about the safe movement of crude, and with good reason. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 25 million Americans live within the one-mile evacuation zone that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recommends should a fiery oil train derailment occur.

Therefore, we urge both DOT and the Department of Energy (DOE) to work together to develop new regulations to address the stabilization of crude oil. There should be an intensive, independent study in conjunction with experts in petroleum and hazardous materials chemistry to determine what actions need to take place to increase safety for all.

It has been reported that DOE is in the early stages of conducting a review on questions about the makeup of Bakken crude and there is no time to waste. It is critical this issue be studied and standards be developed as soon as possible to avoid future tragedies like the ones we have already seen, including explosive fires in West Virginia and in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed as a result of the accident there. It is critical that both DOT and DOE do everything they can to help reduce the risks associated with the transportation of crude oil.

While there are many issues that need to be addressed related to the safe shipment of crude, stabilization technology already exists and is a logical next step to make the communities where these trains pass through as safe as possible. We appreciate your attention to this issue and ask that you send a response addressing the expressed concerns and what steps are being taken to address the volatility of crude oil transported by rail.

Sincerely,

 

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