Oil industry must join U.S. railroads to boost train safety -regulator

Fri Mar 13, 2015 4:11pm EDT
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WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - Rail operators are going to great lengths to prevent oil train derailments but the energy sector must do more to prevent accidents from becoming fiery disasters, the leading U.S. rail regulator said on Friday.

Oil train tankers have jumped the tracks in a string of mishaps in recent months that resulted in explosions and fires.

Those shipments all originated from North Dakota's Bakken energy fields. Officials have warned that fuel from the region is particularly light and volatile.

Sarah Feinberg, acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration, said the energy industry must do more to control the volatility of its cargo.

"(We) are running out of things that we can put on the railroads to do," she said. "There have to be other industries that have skin in the game."

A national safety plan for oil trains, due to be finalized in May, would require trains to have toughened tankers, advanced braking and other safety improvements. Some cars involved in recent crashes were the toughened tankers, but still caught on fire.

The plan, however, would do nothing to mute the dangers of the fuel itself.

As officials try to prevent mishaps, they will also highlight the energy companies that supplied crude oil involved in accidents, Feinberg said.

Officials want to identify publicly "the owner of the product when we talk about these derailments," she said.   Continued...