US, Canada set new regulations for moving ethanol, crude oil by rail

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 1, 2015 - U.S. and Canadian officials today unveiled new regulations governing the transportation of flammable liquids by rail, including crude oil and ethanol.

The regulations follow a series of rail accidents in recent years, including a fiery derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people two years ago and another derailment and fire in Lynchburg, Virginia, that occurred one year ago this week.

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“Safety has been our top priority at every step in the process for finalizing this rule, which is a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in announcing the new regulations.  “Our close collaboration with Canada on new tank car standards is recognition that the trains moving unprecedented amounts of crude by rail are not U.S. or Canadian tank cars - they are part of a North American fleet and a shared safety challenge.”

Canada's Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, joined Foxx to announce Canada's new tank car standards, which align with the U.S. standard.

The final U.S. rule, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT):

--Sets a new, enhanced tank car standard and an aggressive, risk-based retrofitting schedule for older tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol;

--Requires a new braking standard for certain trains that will offer a superior level of safety by potentially reducing the severity of an accident, and the “pile-up effect”;

--Designates new operational protocols for trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids, such as routing requirements, speed restrictions, and information for local government agencies; and

--Provides new sampling and testing requirements to improve classification of energy products placed into transport.

“This stronger, safer, more robust tank car will protect communities on both sides of our shared border,” Raitt said.  “Through strong collaboration we have developed a harmonized solution for North America's tank car fleet. I am hopeful that this kind of cooperation will be a model for future Canada-U.S. partnership on transportation issues.”

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Other U.S. federal agencies are working to make transporting flammable liquids safer, DOT said.  The Department of Homeland Security, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, in coordination with the White House, are pursuing strategies to improve safety.  DOE recently developed an initiative designed to research and characterize tight and conventional crude oils based on key chemical and physical properties, and to identify properties that may contribute to increased likelihood and/or severity of combustion events that can arise during handling and transport.

DOT said this final rule represents the latest, and most significant action to date, in a series of nearly 30 actions that DOT has initiated over the last nineteen months, including additional emergency orders, safety advisories and other actions. 

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