Washington, DC- After recent train derailment accidents in Philadelphia, Vandergrift and McKeesport, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on Congress to pass legislation that would bolster the safety of crude oil shipments. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill would provide funding for new rail and hazardous material inspectors for railway safety, as well as expand the use of automated track inspections to ensure railways are properly maintained to prevent future accidents.
“The accidents we’ve seen in Pennsylvania and across the country should serve as a wakeup call that new efforts are needed to enhance safety,” Casey said. “Safe and dependable rail travel is critical to our economy and the millions of Americans who live near rail lines. I’m calling on Congress to pass the THUD Appropriations bill that will improve safety procedures and work with industry to take appropriate action to prevent future derailments.”
Recent derailments in McKeesport, Vandergrift, and Philadelphia have raised serious questions that need to be addressed to prevent future accidents. It is estimated that around 400,000 carloads of crude oil were shipped last year which is 11.5 billion gallons with one tank car holding roughly 28,000 gallons. Last year more crude oil was spilled in rail accidents than in the nearly four decades since the government started collecting data on these spills.
In February, Senator Casey sent a letter to Secretary Foxx that called on the Department of Transportation to implement new safety standards on rail carriers that transport crude oil and other hazardous materials. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Transportation and freight rail industry reached a compromise on reforms to improve the safety of transporting crude oil, which included slower speeds for trains operating in urban areas, increased emergency responder training, and increase track inspections.
The THUD appropriations bill brings forth a major new initiative to protect the safety of crude oil shipments, which would include:
- Funds to hire 20 new rail and hazardous materials inspectors and retain 45 rail safety positions created in 2014
- $3 million to expand the use of automated track inspections to ensure proper track maintenance on crude oil routes
- Support for the establishment of a Short Line Safety Institute to preform safety compliance assessments and safety training for short line railroads that transport crude oil.
- Proper classification ensures that emergency responders understand the hazards of the products being shipped and the correct way to respond in the case of an accident.
- Funding for a web-based hazardous materials emergency response training curriculum to train public sector emergency response personnel based on or near rail lines that transport a significant amount of high-risk energy products or toxic inhalation hazards.