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Railroads Agree to Increase Oil Train Safety

The country’s major freight railroads announced last week that they will abide by a series of measures to increase the safety of crude oil transportation.

Due to the lack of pipelines in the region to transport this immense quantity of oil to other states to be refined into gasoline, companies have chosen to transport the highly flammable and toxic oil by railroad, which has led to some disasters including the explosion of a train in Quebec that killed 47 people in July of last year.

In an attempt to increase safety when transporting the crude oil, the companies will lower the speed of crude oil trains through populated areas, increase community outreach and improve emergency response training.

“Safety is a shared responsibility among all energy-supply-chain stakeholders,” said Edward Hamberger, the president of the Association of American Railroads, in a statement.  “We will continue to work with our safety partners – including regulators, our employees, our customers and the communities through which we operate – to find even more ways to reinforce public confidence in the rail industry’s ability to safely meet the increased demand to move crude oil.”

Under the terms with the U.S. Department of Transportation, railroads will increase their track inspections, improve brakes so they can stop faster, study the safety and security of routes, as well as increase funding for emergency response training and capability. However, there will still be no inspectors to check the industry out if the new standards aren’t followed, as the industry polices itself.

Additionally, train speeds will be reduced to less than 40 mph through federally designated high-threat urban areas, including Buffalo and New York City. This does not include Albany, however.

Although the agreement is a great start, it does not address one of the most important challenges facing the crude oil by rail industry, which is the DOT-111 train cars. Federal regulators have deemed the cars extremely unsafe, however they carry the vast majority of the oil that is transported. Some companies in the industry are attempting to phase out the cars on their own.

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