NTSB Calls for Tougher Standards on Trains Carrying Crude Oil - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

NTSB Calls for Tougher Standards on Trains Carrying Crude Oil

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Updated Story 6:45PM:

The National Transportation Safety Board made some strong recommendations for changes in rail safety Thursday. One, if not the most notable, includes routing trains carrying hazardous material around well-populated areas.

The Board calls for rail carriers to properly classify hazardous materials that are being transported.

Another is to have safety plans in place and be sure carriers that have petroleum products have employees who know how to respond when the worst case accidents happen.

Lastly railroads should come up with expanded routes for flammable liquids to go around populated areas

"First we got to prevent derailment," says Senator John Hoeven, "so very important that we have an effort by the railroad, by shippers and by the regulators to make sure that the track is safe, that we don't have derailments, that means a comprehensive effort, that means more inspections which is why I'm working to make sure we have more inspectors out there."

Senator Heidi Heitkamp agrees the recommendations should be used to prevent any future derailments.

"These recommendations are consistent with the ongoing dialogue I'm having with the Administration, industry, and local leaders. We need to do everything possible to make sure North Dakota communities are safe. Addressing routing, improving training for first responders, and looking into how products are packaged and classified are issues that need to be addressed. But we are not limited to solely these issues. Previously, the NTSB offered recommendations on safety standards for tank cars, and we must continue to evaluate these standards moving forward. My priorities are preventing such accidents in the first place, and making sure that if they do happen, we know how to respond. Today's report is another important step in that effort." Heitkamp released in a statement.

The Canadian Pacific issued a statement together for Valley News Live saying they will work with regulators to insure the industry is safer.

"Canadian Pacific continues to urge for an immediate and meaningful increase in federal tank car safety standards as this is the single most important step to improving the safety of rail transport of dangerous goods." Says Ed Greenberg with the Canadian Pacific. "This is a complex multi-faceted issue requiring extensive collaboration between regulators, the railways that own the locomotives and tracks, shippers which supply the tank cars and the producers of the product."

Greenberg continues to say Canadian Pacific has a rigorous safety system in place to ensure safety is considered in all they do, including track inspections that Sen. Hoeven mentioned needs to be done. Also adding that their railroad will continue to take the steps to enhance safe train operations.

Valley News Live talked with BNSF Thursday after the announcement from NTSB, asking when people may see the recommendations make a change. Amy McBeth with BNSF replied by email saying they have agreed to study the routing protocol issue as the U.S. DOT announced last Thursday.

"The NTSB's recommendations reaffirm many of the major new actions the rail and petroleum industries, and U.S. Department of Transportation agencies have agreed to undertake to ensure shipping crude oil and other flammable liquids by rail is safe." McBeth says in a statement. "Our safety vision has long been that every accident is preventable. We look forward to working with our customers, the regulatory agencies and the communities we serve, to make sure that rail continues to be the safest mode of surface transportation, particularly for hazardous materials.

Many people on Facebook commented that the industry should take the recommendations as more of an obligation to change. 

To read the Association of American Railroads statement click here

Original Story:

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a series of recommendations to the Department of Transportation to address the safety risk of transporting crude oil by rail. In an unprecedented move, the NTSB is issuing these recommendations in coordination with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

Crude oil shipments by rail have increased by over 400 percent since 2005, according to the Association of American Railroad's Annual Report of Hazardous Materials. The NTSB is concerned that major loss of life, property damage and environmental consequences can occur when large volumes of crude oil or other flammable liquids are transported on a single train involved in an accident, as seen in the Lac Megantic, Quebec, accident, as well as several accidents the NTSB has investigated in the U.S.

"The large-scale shipment of crude oil by rail simply didn't exist ten years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "While this energy boom is good for business, the people and the environment along rail corridors must be protected from harm."

The NTSB issued three recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the first would require expanded hazardous materials route planning for railroads to avoid populated and other sensitive areas.

The second recommendation to FRA and PHMSA is to develop an audit program to ensure rail carriers that carry petroleum products have adequate response capabilities to address worst-case discharges of the entire quantity of product carried on a train.

The third recommendation is to audit shippers and rail carriers to ensure that they are properly classifying hazardous materials in transportation and that they have adequate safety and security plans in place.

The NTSB has investigated accidents involving flammable liquids being transported in DOT-111 tank cars, including the Dec. 30, 2013, derailment in Casselton, N.D., and the June 19, 2009, derailment in Cherry Valley, Ill. After the Cherry Valley accident, the NTSB issued several safety recommendations to PHMSA regarding the inadequate design and poor performance of the DOT-111 tank cars. The recommendations include making the tank head and shell more puncture resistant and requiring that bottom outlet valves remain closed during accidents. Although PHMSA initiated rulemaking to address the safety issues, it has not issued any new rules.

"If unit trains of flammable liquids are going to be part of our nation's energy future, we need to make sure the hazardous materials classification is accurate, the route is well planned, and the tank cars are as robust as possible," Hersman said.

The NTSB and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada issued these important safety recommendations jointly because railroad companies routinely operate crude oil unit trains in both countries and across the U.S-Canada border.

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