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January 24, 2014

NTSB: Oil train crash risks ‘major loss of life’

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx met with oil and railroad executives last week, pressing them to come up with voluntary changes in the way oil is transported to increase safety. He asked industry officials to report back to him within 30 days.

Edward Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads, reaffirmed the freight rail industry’s commitment to moving oil safely by train in a speech Thursday to energy and financial industry executives.

“We share the secretary’s sense of urgency and want to help instill public confidence in rail’s ability to meet the demand for moving more energy resources in this country,” Hamberger said in a summary of his speech provided by the rail association.

U.S. crude oil production is forecast to reach 8.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2014 — up from 5 million barrels per day in 2008. The increase is overwhelmingly due to the fracking boom in North Dakota’s Bakken region. Fracking involves the fracturing of rock with pressurized liquid to free oil and natural gas unreachable through conventional drilling.

Freight railroads in the U.S. transported nearly 234,000 carloads of crude oil in 2012, up from just 9,500 in 2008. Early data suggest that rail carloads of crude surpassed 400,000 in 2013, according to the railroad association.

“The large-scale shipments of crude oil by rail simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in a statement. “While this energy boom is good for business, the people and the environment along rail corridors must be protected from harm.”

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