Maloney Urges President Obama to Expedite New Rules on Crude By Rail
Washington, DC – After a freight train transporting crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, VA, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) sent a letter to President Obama and Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell requesting the immediate release of comprehensive rules for crude oil transport safety, recommended last week by the Department of Transportation. Additionally, Rep. Maloney urged that the process of removing or replacing inadequate rail tank cars, or DOT-111 cars, be expedited to prevent tragic train derailments.
“As the amount of crude oil traveling through the Hudson Valley increases, so must our sense of urgency; 90 days is too long to release simple safety measures that will save lives and protect our environment,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “By investing in commonsense safety measures like replacing unsafe tanker cars and installing trackside safety technology like Positive Train Control, we can reduce human error and save lives – we don't have a day to waste to ensure the safety of our neighbors and families.”
Both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) have called on the DOT to phase-out or retrofit existing DOT-111 cars deemed inadequate. Out of 92,000 DOT-111 rail cars in use, 78,000 are unsafe and are prone to splitting during derailments. According to executive order, the period for review of a draft regulation is limited to 90 days, which can be extended by the OMB Director. The average review time for draft rules submitted to the Office of Management and Budget is 53 days.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has been working with the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to examine the environmental and economic impact of shipments of crude on the Hudson River. Last week, Representative Maloney announced plans to introduce legislation to make rail systems safer. In December, Representative Maloney introduced legislation that would increase funding for the Railroad Safety Technology Grant Program, which invests in train control technologies, electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, rail integrity warning systems, and other new or novel railroad safety technology such as Positive Train Control. This program expired on October 1, 2013.
The full letter is as follows:
Dear Director Burwell,
I write to express my deep concern about the lack of safety regulations for transporting crude oil by rail throughout the country, including New York and my district in the Hudson Valley. On Wednesday a freight train carrying crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, VA, sparking a massive fireball spilling oil directly into the James River. In the past year three freight trains have derailed or caused accidents near the Hudson Valley, most recently in Ulster County. We’ve also seen multiple tragic and disastrous derailments in places like Quebec and North Dakota.
This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation sent a comprehensive rule-making package to your office to ensure safe transportation of crude oil through our cities and towns. I request that you act with utmost urgency to release these rules to the public and initiate a formal public comment process. There’s not a moment to waste on finalizing these regulations.
Tank car safety standards must be raised for new and existing cars. Expediting the process of replacing or removing inadequate rail tank cars, or DOT-111 cars, would save lives, property, and our environment in the event of a derailment. Only 14,000 of 92,000 DOT-111 tank cars are currently built to the latest industry standard, which means that 78,000 tank cars prone to splitting during derailments are currently in use. Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Association of American Railroads have called on the DOT to require phasing-out or retrofitting existing DOT-111 cars that do not feature enhanced design features.
I hope you will act quickly on the recommended DOT safety regulations that would expedite the replacing and retrofitting of dangerously inadequate DOT-111 tank cars. It is essential that we take action immediately to better align safety standards and reduce the risks associated with crude oil transportation by rail. As we have seen, these accidents happen frequently and without warning, and the safety of my neighbors and our environment is too important to wait.
Sean Patrick Maloney
Member of Congress
CC: President Barack Obama
CC: Secretary Anthony Foxx