Exclusive: North Dakota governor: railcar safety standards for crude needed now

Tue Jan 21, 2014 4:39pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Ernest Scheyder

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Provisional safety standards for railcars carrying crude oil are needed as soon as possible, not next year as the U.S. Department of Transportation expects, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said in an interview on Tuesday.

While Dalrymple has little power over federal regulators, his bully pulpit as head of the second-largest oil-producing state carries much weight as a national debate rages over the safety of shipping crude oil by rail.

Federal regulators have been studying railcar design and the composition of North Dakota's Bakken crude oil after a string of explosive derailments, including one last month when a 106-car BNSF Railway Co train carrying crude east crashed into a derailed westbound BNSF grain train near Dalrymple's hometown of Casselton, North Dakota.

Last July, a runaway oil train derailed and exploded in the center of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.

Yet DOT said last week permanent standards are not likely until 2015, leaving companies that make railcars, as well as oil producers, shippers and processors, in limbo and technically beholden to outdated regulations.

"We do need some kind of provisional standard for the next year," Dalrymple said. Waiting until then "just leaves a couple of industries guessing."

There has been broad agreement that newer, safer railcars, with more shielding and advanced valves, are needed to ship crude oil.

The Railway Supply Institute, a trade group for tank car owners, urged DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) last month to adopt safety standards already put in place in October 2011 by the Association of American Railroads, the rail industry's trade group.   Continued...

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple (R) speaks with the media at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Minot, North Dakota, June 27, 2011. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson