Ag organizations ask DOT to reconsider rail regulations

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2014 - Thirty national and state agricultural organizations signed a letter calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to reconsider new rules on rail tank cars hauling crude oil and ethanol.

The groups say reconsidering the new rules would “avoid exacerbating already significant disruptions to rail service.” In a letter to DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the groups say the new proposed rule is not the right way to fix the problem at hand.

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“Our organizations support practical, feasible and economically viable steps demonstrated to be effective in further enhancing the safety of rail transport of crude oil and other flammable liquids,” the letter said. “However, we believe that in several major respects, the proposed rule contains Draconian measures that are contrary to these principles, and would not achieve the desired outcome.”

The organizations, which include agricultural heavy-hitters such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and the National Grain and Feed Association, list four specific areas where they see potential problems.

They say proposed speed restrictions, a plan to retrofit or replace all existing cars currently in ethanol service by 2018, a lack of a “holistic” approach to all factors that could affect train derailments, and a proposal to require electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes are all ineffective ways to address issues facing flammable liquid transportation.

“(W)e believe the proposed rule, as currently drafted, would have the unintended consequence of further exacerbating already degraded rail service to agriculture and other rail users, threaten to increase rail congestion, strain the capacity of rail tank car builders and repair shops, and impose major costs not accounted for in PHMSA's flawed cost-benefit analysis,” they said.

The potential increase in rail congestion the organizations mention would have dire consequences for an already troublesome relationship between rail companies and their agricultural clients. Rail infrastructure capacity has been a point of interest for many agricultural organizations since the fall of 2013, when issues began with moving grain shipments.

Many lawmakers have weighed in on the issue, including Congressional members from the upper Midwest. Yesterday, Senators John Thune, R-S.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sent a letter to USDA requesting an economic analysis of the how much money agricultural producers have lost due to untimely shipments.

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