WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators concerned about the potential dangers of oil being transported via rail sent a letter calling on President Obama to nominate a permanent administrator to head the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the agency responsible for overseeing pipeline and crude-by-rail safety.
“It is important to states like ours that PHMSA have a permanent administrator to ensure accountability, to develop long-term plans for pipeline transport and crude-by-rail safety, and to respond quickly when things unfortunately go wrong,” the Senators wrote.
Washington senators Maria Cantwell, D-WA, and Patty Murray, D-WA, joined by Senators Jon Tester, D-Mont., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., all signed the letter.
Rule will make significant and extensive changes to improve accident prevention, mitigation and emergency response
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced a final rule for the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail. The final rule, developed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in coordination with Canada, focuses on safety improvements that are designed to prevent accidents, mitigate consequences in the event of an accident, and support emergency response.
Unveils 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.
Canada’s Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, joined Secretary Foxx to announce Canada’s new tank car standards, which align with the U.S. standard.
“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”
“This stronger, safer, more robust tank car will protect communities on both sides of our shared border,” said Minister Raitt. “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.”
Other federal agencies are also working to make transporting flammable liquids safer. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE), 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.
This final rule represents the latest, and most significant 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.
Additional information about the rule:
(Unless stated otherwise, the rule applies to “high-hazard flammable trains” (HHFTs)—a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train.).
Enhanced Standards for New and Existing Tank Cars for use in an HHFT—New tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015, are required to meet the new DOT Specification 117 design or performance criteria. The prescribed car has a 9/16 inch tank shell, 11 gauge jacket, 1/2 inch full-height head shield, thermal protection, and improved pressure relief valves and bottom outlet valves. Existing tank cars must be retrofitted with the same key components based on a prescriptive, risk-based retrofit schedule (see table). As a result of the aggressive, risk-based approach, the final rule will require replacing the entire fleet of DOT-111 tank cars for Packing Group I, which covers most crude shipped by rail, within three years and all non-jacketed CPC-1232s, in the same service, within approximately five years.
Enhanced Braking to Mitigate Damage in Derailments—The rule requires HHFTs to have in place a functioning two-way end-of-train (EOT) device or a distributed power (DP) braking system. Trains meeting the definition of a “high-hazard flammable unit train,” or HHFUT (a single train with 70 or more tank cars loaded with Class 3 flammable liquids), with at least one tank car with Packing Group I materials, must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by January 1, 2021. All other HHFUTs must have ECP braking systems installed after 2023. This important, service-proven technology has been operated successfully for years in certain services in the United States, Australia, and elsewhere.
Reduced Operating Speeds—The rule restricts all HHFTs to 50 mph in all areas and HHFTs containing any tank cars not meeting the enhanced tank car standards required by this rule are restricted to operating at a 40 mph speed restriction in high-threat urban areas. The 40 mph restriction for HHFTs without new or retrofitted tank cars is also currently required under FRA’s Emergency Order No. 30.
Rail Routing – More Robust Risk Assessment—Railroads operating HHFTs must perform a routing analysis that considers, at a minimum, 27 safety and security factors, including “track type, class, and maintenance schedule” and “track grade and curvature,” and select a route based on its findings. These planning requirements are prescribed in 49 CFR §172.820.
Rail Routing – Improves Information Sharing—Ensures that railroads provide State and/or regional fusion centers, and State, local and tribal officials with a railroad point of contact for information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions. This replaces the proposed requirement for railroads to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) or other appropriate state-designated entities about the operation of these trains through their States.
More Accurate Classification of Unrefined Petroleum-Based Products—Offerors must develop and carry out sampling and testing programs for all unrefined petroleum-based products, such as crude oil, to address the criteria and frequency of sampling to improve and ensure accuracy. Offerors must certify that hazardous materials subject to the program are packaged in accordance with the test results, document the testing and sampling program outcomes, and make that information available to DOT personnel upon request.
The actions taken today address several recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board, including: requiring enhanced safety features for tank cars carrying ethanol and crude oil and an aggressive schedule to replace or retrofit existing tank cars; requiring thermal protection and high-capacity pressure relieve valves for tank cars in flammable liquid service, expanding hazardous materials route planning and selection requirements for trains transporting flammable liquids; inspecting shippers to ensure crude oil is properly classified and requiring shippers to sufficiently test and document both physical and chemical characteristics of haza rdous materials; and providing a vehicle for reporting the number of cars retrofitted.
You can view a summary of the rule here and the entire rule here. For additional information on the steps the Department of Transportation has already taken to help strengthen the safe transport of crude oil by rail, please visit www.dot.gov/mission/safety/rail-chronology.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced with its agencies, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a package of targeted actions that will address some of the issues identified in recent train accidents involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail. The volume of crude oil being shipped by rail has increased exponentially in recent years, and the number of significant accidents involving trains carrying ethanol or crude oil is unprecedented.
“The boom in crude oil production, and transportation of that crude, poses a serious threat to public safety,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The measures we are announcing today are a result of lessons learned from recent accidents and are steps we are able to take today to improve safety. Our efforts in partnership with agencies throughout this Administration show that this is more than a transportation issue, and we are not done yet.”
These actions represent the latest in a series of more than two dozen that DOT has initiated over the last nineteen months to address the significant threat to public safety that accidents involving trains carrying highly flammable liquids can represent. Today’s announcement includes one Emergency Order, two Safety Advisories, and notices to industry intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids.
Preliminary investigation of one recent derailment indicates that a mechanical defect involving a broken tank car wheel may have caused or contributed to the incident. The Federal Railroad Administration is therefore recommending that only the highest skilled inspectors conduct brake and mechanical inspections of trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids, and that industry decrease the threshold for wayside detectors that measure wheel impacts, to ensure the wheel integrity of tank cars in those trains.
Recent accidents revealed that certain critical information about the train and its cargo needs to be immediately available for use by emergency responders or federal investigators who arrive on scene shortly after an incident. To address the information gap, DOT is taking several actions to remind both the oil industry and the rail industry of their obligation to provide these critical details
PHMSA is issuing a safety advisory reminding carriers and shippers of the specific types of information (*listed below) that they must make immediately available to emergency responders;
FRA and PHMSA are issuing a joint safety advisory requesting that specific information (*listed below) also be made readily available to investigators;
FRA is sending a request to the Association of American Railroads asking the industry to develop a formal process by which this specific information (*listed below) becomes available to both emergency responders and investigators within 90 minutes of initial contact with an investigator, and;
FRA submitted to the Federal Register a notice proposing to expand the information collected on certain required accident reports, so that information specific to accidents involving trains transporting crude oil is reported.
DOT has determined that public safety compels issuance of an Emergency Order to require that trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquid through certain highly populated areas adhere to a maximum authorized operating speed limit of 40 miles per hour in High Threat Urban Areas. Under the EO, an affected train is one that contains: 1) 20 or more loaded tank cars in a continuous block, or 35 or more loaded tank cars, of Class 3 flammable liquid; and, 2) at least one DOT Specification 111 (DOT-111) tank car (including those built in accordance with Association of American Railroads (AAR) Casualty Prevention Circular 1232 (CPC-1232)) loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid.
“These are important, common-sense steps that will protect railroad employees and residents of communities along rail lines. Taking the opportunity to review safety steps and to refresh information before moving forward is a standard safety practice in many industries and we expect the shipping and carrier industries to do the same,” said Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg.
“Our first priority is to prevent these accidents from ever happening,” stated Acting PHMSA Administrator Tim Butters. “But when accidents do occur, first responders need to have the right information quickly, so we are reminding carriers and shippers of their responsibility to have the required information readily available and up to date.”
The actions taken today coincide with actions being taken by other government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE).
*Information required by PHMSA Safety Advisory:
Basic description and technical name of the hazardous material the immediate hazard to health;
Risks of fire or explosion;
Immediate precautions to be taken in the event of an accident;
Immediate methods for handling fires;
Initial methods for handling spills or leaks in the absence of fire;
Preliminary first aid measures; and
24-hour telephone number for immediate access to product information.
*Information sought by U.S. DOT in the event of a crude-by-rail accident:
Information on the train consist, including the train number, locomotive(s), locomotives as distributed power, 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 of the tank cars in the train.
Waybill (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 (initial testing)
Results from any analysis of product sample(s) (taken prior to being offered into transportation) from tank car(s) involved in the derailment
Date of acceptance as required to be noted on shipping papers under 49 CFR § 174.24.
If a refined flammable liquid is involved, the type of liquid and the name and location of the company extracting the material
The identification of the company having initial testing performed (sampling and analysis of material) and information on the lab (if external) conducting the analysis.
Name and location of the company transporting the material from well head to 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.
Since 2013 there have been 23 crude-related train accidents in the United States with the majority of incidents occurring without the release of any crude oil product.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation March 25 that would set strong new safety standards for trains hauling volatile crude oil, to better protect American communities along the tracks.
The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015 requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt the use of older-model tank cars that have been shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments.
“Every new derailment increases the urgency with which we need to act,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Communities in Washington state and across the nation see hundreds of these oil tank cars pass through each week. This legislation will help reduce the risk of explosion in accidents, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and ensure first responders have the equipment they need. We can’t afford to wait for ten accidents per year, as estimated by the Department of Transportation.”
“Families and communities in Washington state and across the country should be able to feel safe knowing that every precaution is being taken to protect them from oil train disasters,” Sen. Murray said. “This legislation will help make sure the most dangerous tank cars are kept off the tracks and is a strong step forward in reducing the risks of oil train accidents and making sure our communities have the resources they need to be prepared for emergencies if they happen.”
“As more and more volatile crude oil moves through Wisconsin and through our country via rail it is critical that appropriate safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of deadly accidents,” Sen. Baldwin said. “I’m proud to join Sens. Cantwell, Feinstein and Murray in introducing legislation that takes immediate action to phase out the most dangerous tank cars carrying crude oil through our communities and I am hopeful our colleagues in the Senate will join us to prevent future oil train tragedies from occurring as we work to increase safety and efficiency along America’s railways.”
“As more crude oil is moved by train, we’re seeing a surge in derailments and explosions. Until we deploy safer tank cars and stronger safety rules, countless communities across the country face the risk of a devastating accident,” Sen. Feinstein said. “That’s why I’m supporting Senator Cantwell’s bill, which will save lives and property and ensure that railcar investments now underway will lead to significant safety improvements. We can’t wait for the next deadly accident to take the necessary steps to improve rail safety.”
The legislation would:
Require PHMSA standards for volatility of gases in crude oil hauled by rail.
Immediately ban the use of tank cars shown to be unsafe for shipping crude oil. Those models include DOT-111s and unjacketed CPC-1232s.
Require new tank car design standards that include 9/16th inch shells, thermal protection, pressure relief valves and electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.
Increase fines on railroads that violate hazardous materials laws and establish new fines for railroads and energy companies that don’t comply with safety laws.
Authorize funding for first responder training, equipment and emergency preparedness. Also would authorize funding for increased rail inspections and energy product testing.
Require comprehensive oil spill response plans for trains carrying oil, petroleum and other hazardous products.
Mandate railroads establish a confidential “close-call” reporting system for employees to anonymously report problems.
Require railroads to disclose crude-by-rail movements to State Emergency Response Commissions and Local Emergency Planning Committees along hazmat rail routes.
The legislation follows four fiery derailments involving oil trains since the start of February. No injuries were reported, but a July 2013 derailment in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, resulted in 47 deaths. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates an average of 10 derailments annually over the next 20 years as crude-by-rail shipments grow, costing $4 billion.
Five years ago, railroads hauled almost no crude oil. Now, more than 1.1 million barrels per day – with more expected – move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest. But safety regulations have not kept pace, and thousands of tank cars now in use to haul hazardous materials were not designed to carry the more flammable crude that comes from regions such as the Bakken shale.
ECP braking technology is part of DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) proposed ruling to make hauling crude oil safer. If passed, the proposal would require advanced braking systems, called electronically controlled pneumatic brakes or ECP technology, to be installed on trains hauling 20 cars or more of oil or ethanol.
National Legislative Director John Risch recently commented in an article by Energy Wire, stating that ECP braking technology is “the greatest advancement in safety I have witnessed in 30 years on the railroads.”
Risch went on further to say, “By instantaneously applying the brakes on all cars, ECP systems reduce in-train forces and dramatically reduce the distance a train needs to stop.”
Transportation regulators have estimated that if something is not done, the next oil train derailment could cost up to $5.75 billion, more than twice as devastating as the derailment and explosion that occurred in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
The PHMSA’s proposed ruling also includes making oil trains safer by requiring newly designed tank cars with a thicker steel shell. The proposal has three options on the table for new tank cars. Option I is a tank car that features a 9/16 inch steel shell, outfitted with ECP brakes and equipped with rollover protection. Option II would also have the 9/16 inch steel but would not require the car to feature ECP brakes, while option III would have 7/16 inch steel and would also not require the ECP brakes or rollover protection.
In his comments to PHMSA’s proposed ruling, Risch stated, “We support Option I that features tank cars with 9/16 inch steel, outfitted with ECP brakes and equipped with rollover protection. We believe that Options II and III should be eliminated and Option I established as the standard.”
Risch has also suggested in an additional letter to the PHMSA that additional safety measures be taken. “We respectfully recommend that there be a minimum requirement of five buffer cars of sand behind the lead locomotives on all crude oil and ethanol unit cars. These buffer cars will give the crew some time to get out of the locomotive cabs and evacuate the area with their lives after a train wreck.
“During an accident, the sand buffer cars can rupture and spill sand creating a berm on the ground between the crew and draining oil. That spilled sand can also be used to help soak up the spilled oil or ethanol.
“Our nation’s railroads are an inherently safe way to transport ethanol and crude oil and accidents are rare. That being said, safety needs continuous improvement… While prevention is priority, both accidental and intentional incidents are inevitable and must be anticipated by this rulemaking.”
WASHINGTON – The nation’s major freight railroads Feb. 21 joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in announcing a rail operations safety initiative that will institute new voluntary operating practices for moving crude oil by rail. The announcement follows consultations between railroads represented by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), including the leadership of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
The announcement Feb. 21 covers steps related to crude by rail operations. Additional issues relating to the safe transport of crude oil, such as tank car standards and proper shipper classification of crude oil, are being addressed separately.
“We share the Administration’s vision for making a safe rail network even safer, and have worked together to swiftly pinpoint new operating practices that enhance the safety of moving crude oil by rail,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Safety is a shared responsibility among all energy-supply-chain stakeholders. 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 industry’s voluntary efforts, railroads will take the following steps:
Increased Track Inspections – Effective March 25, railroads will perform at least one additional internal-rail inspection each year above those required by new FRA regulations on main line routes over which trains moving 20 or more carloads of crude oil travel. Railroads will also conduct at least two high-tech track geometry inspections each year on main line routes over which trains with 20 or more loaded cars of crude oil are moving. Current federal regulations do not require comprehensive track geometry inspections.
Braking Systems – No later than April 1, railroads will equip all trains with 20 or more carloads of crude oil with either distributed power or two-way telemetry end-of-train devices. These technologies allow train crews to apply emergency brakes from both ends of the train in order to stop the train faster.
Use of Rail Traffic Routing Technology – No later than July 1, railroads will begin using the Rail Corridor Risk Management System (RCRMS) to aid in the determination of the safest and most secure rail routes for trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil. RCRMS is a sophisticated analytical tool, developed in coordination with the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), PHMSA and FRA. Railroads currently use RCRMS in the routing of security sensitive materials. This tool takes into account 27 risk factors – including volume of commodity, trip length, population density along the route, local emergency response capability, track quality and signal systems – to assess the safety and security of rail routes.
Lower Speeds – No later than July 1, railroads will operate trains with 20 or more tank cars carrying crude oil that include at least one older DOT-111 car no faster than 40 mph in the federally designated 46 high-threat-urban areas (HTUA) as established by DHS regulations. In the meantime, railroads will continue to operate trains with 20 or more carloads of hazardous materials, including crude oil, at the industry self-imposed speed limit of 50 mph.
Community Relations – Railroads will continue to work with communities through which crude oil trains move to address location-specific concerns that communities may have.
Increased Trackside Safety Technology – No later than July 1, railroads will begin installing additional wayside wheel bearing detectors if they are not already in place every 40 miles along tracks with trains carrying 20 or more crude oil cars, as other safety factors allow.
Increased Emergency Response Training and Tuition Assistance – Railroads have committed by July 1 to provide $5 million to develop specialized crude by rail training and tuition assistance program for local first responders. One part of the curriculum will be designed to be provided to local emergency responders in the field, as well as comprehensive training will designed to be conducted at the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) facility in Pueblo, Colo. The funding will provide program development as well as tuition assistance for an estimated 1500 first responders in 2014.
Emergency Response Capability Planning – Railroads will by July 1 develop an inventory of emergency response resources for responding to the release of large amounts of crude oil along routes over which trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil operate. This inventory will include locations for the staging of emergency response equipment and, where appropriate, contacts for the notification of communities. When the inventory is completed, railroads will provide DOT with information on the deployment of the resources and make the information available upon request to appropriate emergency responders.
Railroads will continue to work with the Administration and rail customers to address other key shared safety responsibilities, including federal tank car standards and the proper shipper classification and labeling of oil moving by rail. PHMSA is currently reviewing public comments on increasing federal tank car standards.
The Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will host a public meeting Aug. 27-28 in Washington, D.C., about the transportation of hazardous materials by rail. The two DOT agencies want to hear from stakeholders because they have begun a review of operational factors that affect the safe transportation of hazmats by rail, no doubt spurred by the recent Canadian disaster involving a derailed train carrying crude oil to a refinery.
The meeting is scheduled to last from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. both days in the Oklahoma Room in the DOT Conference Center, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington, DC 20590.
Anyone who wants to present an oral statement should notify Kurt Eichenlaub, Railroad Safety specialist in the Hazardous Materials Division’s Office of Safety Assurance and Compliance at FRA, at least four business days prior to the meeting at (20) 493-6050 or Kurt.Eichenlaub@dot.gov.
Comments also may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov (Docket No. FRA-2013-0067).
This article originally appeared at www.ohsonline.com.