SCHUMER ANNOUNCES LEGISLATION TO FIX MAJOR SHORTCOMINGS OF RECENT PROMULGATED FED RULE ON OIL-BY-RAIL; CURRENT RULE TAKES 8 YEARS TO FULLY PHASE OUT DANGEROUS OIL CARS & LEAVES OUT CAPITAL REGION FROM MAJOR SPEED PROTECTIONS; NEW LEGISLATION TO FIX THESE & OTHER SHORTCOMINGS
Schumer Legislation Would Require Much Faster Phase-Out of the Most Dangerous Oil Cars, Add Speed Restrictions For Trains Traveling Near Major Population Areas Like The Capital Region, and Would Require First Ever Federal Standard on Oil Volatility
Schumer Says Recently Issued DOT Rule Provides Important Certainty and a Tough New Tank Car Standard, But Allows Dangerous Cars to Remain in Service for Far Too Long; Schumer Bill Would Greatly Improve Safety of Oil-By-Rail Shipments & Safety In Places Like the Capital Region
Schumer: Legislation Needed To Fix Holes in Oil-by-Rail Rule
Standing outside the Ganser-Smith Memorial Park in Menands, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today critical legislation that will expedite the elimination of the dangerous crude oil carrying DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars. This legislation comes on the heels of the recently announced U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) rules regarding oil cars that Schumer said do not go far enough to quickly phase out the dangerous train cars and protect Upstate communities, like the Capital Region. In particular, Schumer said that while the U.S. DOT rule allows oil train cars like the DOT-111’s to remain in service through 2023, his bill would have them all phased-out within two years. In addition, this legislation will require the USDOT to formulate the first-ever federal standard on volatility in order to reduce the instability of the flammable oil currently traveling across the state and nation. Finally, Schumer explained that his bill would also add speed restrictions for these trains traveling near the Capital Region and other Upstate communities.
“Allowing these outdated oil cars to continue rolling through our communities for another eight years is a reckless gamble that we can't afford to make. That is why I am introducing legislation that would fix these obvious shortcomings. For far too long, the rail and oil industries have taken advantage of the lack of rules by making excuse after excuse to delay phasing-out the dangerous and outdated tanker cars. While the DOT's announcement has finally forced the industry’s hands to update these rules, there is no question that the new rules don't go far enough,” said Senator Schumer. “Letting these unsafe DOT-111s move the same extremely explosive oil we saw in the Lac Mègantic disaster for another eight years, is both careless and indefensible; and allowing the similarly dangerous unjacketed CPC-1232 cars to remain in service for another five to eight years is simply put, unfathomable.”
Schumer explained that the USDOT recently unveiled new rules to better regulate the tank cars, like the DOT-111s and unjacketed CPC-1232s, that move volatile crude oil through Upstate communities every day. However, Schumer said that while these new rules are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough to quickly phase out these dangerous train cars. That is why Schumer is introducing legislation that would fix the shortcomings of these rules and speed up the phase-out of the DOT-111 and CPC-1232 oil cars.
First, Schumer explained that the DOT’s phase out of the DOT-111 and CPC-1232 cars is based on packing groups (PG). PG I is the most volatile and dangerous of substances, PG II is slightly less volatile, and PG III is considered the most stable and least hazardous. Schumer explained that most Bakken crude oil, which is carried in these DOT-111 and CPC-1232 cars from North Dakota, falls into PG I or PG II. Many other types of crude, like the oil involved in the Lac-Mègantic disaster – which left 47 people dead in the Canadian Province of Quebec in July 2013 – fall into PG II or PG III. Despite being slight less volatile, oil in PG II can still pose a major threat to communities. Under the new DOT rules, DOT-111 cars can remain in service for another 8 years, through 2023, and carry PG II materials. While the DOT rule would phase cars carrying PG I crude oil out by 2018, Schumer said his legislation would eliminate all DOT-111 train cars carrying both PG I and II oil within two years, by 2017, because they are the most dangerous and at risk of explosion during a train derailment or car puncture. Schumer said these train cars should still not be allowed to carry crude for another 8 years. In addition to the newly released DOT-111 rules, the DOT allowed unjacketed CPC-1232 cars – which were involved in the recent West Virginia accident and are only slightly safer than DOT-111s – to remain in service carrying PG I materials for 5 years, until 2020. These unjacketed CPC-1232 cars would be permitted to continue PG II service for another 8 years, until 2023. Schumer said this is unacceptable and his legislation would have all of the unjacketed CPC-1232 cars fully phased out for PG I materials by 2018 and PG II by 2019.
Second, Schumer said the DOT’s new rule on tank cars leaves out major Upstate communities like the Capital Region from its speed restrictions on oil-by-rail. Specifically, the DOT only applied further speed restrictions to an existing TSA definition know as High Threat Urban Areas (HTUA) – something which was developed long before Crude-by-Rail became a major issue. In the State of New York, this means only New York City and the City of Buffalo are included, leaving out the rest of the state. Currently crude oil does not pass through New York City by rail. Schumer’s legislation would apply a speed limit to all DOT-111s that travel in a county with a population density greater than 20 people per sq. mile. Schumer said this means more communities and urban centers, across Upstate New York, including all of the Capital Region, would have added speed restrictions like New York City and Buffalo. In addition, in two years Schumer’s bill would apply a speed limit to all unjacketed CPC-1232s that travel in a county with a population density greater than 20 people per sq. mile. Schumer said this will help to incentivize railroads to pressure the oil companies to phase out the older cars faster.
Third, Schumer’s legislation would require the USDOT to formulate the first-ever federal standard on volatility in order to reduce the instability of the flammable oil currently traveling across the state and nation. Schumer said that despite his letter to USDOT and DOE earlier this year, the issue of oil-by-rail volatility was not addressed at all in the new DOT rules and his bill would require the DOT issue a volatility standard for the transport of Crude Oil by Rail or Barge within one year. Schumer said that his ongoing push to strengthen tank car standards that will make punctures and breaches less likely is a critical step in making crude transport by rail safer, but an all-of-the-above approach is needed; making the actual crude oil – often Bakken – loaded into the tank cars less volatile is something oil companies are capable of doing and another important step the federal government must undertake. Schumer noted that the oil involved in the Lac-Mègantic disaster likely would have met the state-level stabilization standard North Dakota has set. According to the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, this Bakken crude oil in particular is easier to ignite because the flash point—the lowest temperature at which ignition can occur—is lower than it is for other crude oils. That means it is particularly dangerous during rail transport, when derailments and breaches, and subsequent explosions, near communities are most likely to happen. Schumer said new regulations on crude oil stabilization, before the oil is even loaded into these tank cars, are needed to add an additional layer of safety for New York communities where oil trains pass through each and every day.
In addition to these main tenets, Schumer’s legislation addresses many other issues in regards to oil-by-rail safety. Schumer’s bill would require Positive Train Control (PTC) be installed on all routes that carry crude oil or ethanol by December 2018. PTC is a communications and signaling system that can be used on railroads to prevent collisions caused by excessive speed and human error. It would also require railroads to conduct at least two additional internal track inspections and four additional geometry inspections on routes that carry crude by rail. The bill requires railroads to implement a new confidential close-call reporting system so that employees can anonymously report problems as well, in addition to requiring comprehensive oil spill response plans for trains carrying all crude oil, petroleum and other hazardous products, as recommended by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Finally, Schumer’s legislation includes a requirement that, following the derailment of any High Hazard Flammable Train (HHFT) – which is comprised of more than 10 loaded tank cars carrying volatile crude oil – the following information be made immediately available to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and to local emergency responders. Schumer said this is critical because local first responders are often first on the scene and need to know what type of protocol they should follow based on the contents of the train. Schumer’s legislation would also require that the FRA know this information within 90 minutes of the derailment of any HHFT:
- Information on the train, including the train number, locomotive(s), end-of-train device information, number and position of tank cars in the train, tank car reporting marks, and the tank car specifications and relevant attributes (including information related to thermal protection, shell and head thickness, steel specification and grade, head shield, and pressure relief valve setting)
- Origin and destination information
- The Safety Data Sheet(s) or any other documents used to provide comprehensive emergency response and incident mitigation information for Class 3 flammable liquids
- Results of any product testing undertaken prior to transportation that was used to properly characterize the Class 3 flammable liquids for transportation
- Results from any analysis of product sample(s) (taken prior to being offered into transportation) form tank car(s) involved in the derailment
- If a flammable liquid is involved the type of liquid and the name and location of the company extracting the material
- The identification of the company that conducted the initial testing (sampling and analysis) of the material
- Name and location of the company transporting the material from well head to the loading facility or terminal
- Name and location of the company that owns and that operates the terminal or loading facility that loaded the product for rail transportation
- Name of the Railroad(s) handling the tank car(s) at any time from point of origin to destination and a timeline of handling changes between railroads
Schumer was joined by Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, Assemblyman Phil Steck, Assemblyman John McDonald, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy and City of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.
In addition to this legislation, Schumer recently co-sponsored the Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2015, along with Senators Wyden, Feinstein, and Merkley, which aims to reduce risks to communities near railroad tracks by speeding up the phase-out of older tank cars and encouraging companies to replace them with newer, safer cars. Specifically, it establishes a fee on DOT-111 tank cars used to transport crude oil, ethanol or other flammable liquids. The per-car fee starts at $175 per car per shipment and increases annually. Funds from the newly established fee would then be used to reduce risks to communities by training first responders, hiring state railroad inspectors, and relocating tracks that carry large volumes of flammable liquids or gases. Under this legislation, the fee would pay for clean-up costs stemming from railroad accidents involving flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol. It would also help provide preparedness and training grants totaling $45 million over three years for first responders in communities through which large quantities of crude oil, ethanol, liquefied natural gas or other flammable liquids are transported by rail. Finally, it would also pay for grants of $100 million over four years to reroute railroad tracks handling large volumes of flammable liquids, and help states hire additional railroad inspectors and a tax credit would be made available to companies that upgrade CPC-1232 cars in 2016, 2017 or 2018 to the new standard established in the forthcoming DOT rule.
Schumer said that, across New York State, the dangers posed by shipping volatile Bakken crude oil by rail have become increasingly clear. With hundreds of tank cars full of Bakken crude oil traveling through the state every day, Schumer has worked over the past year and a half to better ensure the safety of residents by pushing to strengthen tank car standards that would make explosions less likely in the instance of derailments and breaches. In 2013, Schumer successfully pushed the federal DOT to propose a rule to regulate the DOT-111 tank cars. Since August 2013, Schumer has worked tirelessly to address issues associated with the hazardous materials these train cars carry through communities every day, namely pushing for the phasing out or retrofitting of DOT-111 train cars that are prone to explosion during derailments. Following previous crashes the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a series of recommendations, including to the Pipeline and Hazmat Safety Administration to require all service tank cars carrying fuel ethanol and crude oil to have protections and features that far exceed the DOT-111 design requirements.