Hoeven, Heitkamp, Cramer Meet with DOT Sec. FOxx, PHMSA Admin. Quarterman, Industry Leaders to Improve Railway Safety

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer met today with Transportation Department officials, railroad industry executives and shippers, specifically the oil industry, to follow up on a meeting last week on railway transportation safety.

The delegation again met with Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) head Cynthia Quarterman, Federal Railroad Administration head Joseph C. Szabo and the oil and rail industry leaders to develop strategies to prevent derailments and, in the event of a derailment, reduce the risk of fire or explosions.

The group agreed to take specific action steps starting within 30 days:

  • The railroads will address routing in accordance with PHMSA guidelines and determine the safest routes for transporting crude oil and petroleum products.
  • Railroads and PHMSA will evaluate speed limits to try to minimize the risk of derailments.
  • The shipping industry, working with the railroads, will develop an educational training program for crude oil emergency responders.
  • The oil industry will work with PHMSA on the “Bakken Blitz,” an effort to test and analyze crude oil and petroleum products to ensure they are properly shipped in appropriate containers.
  •  Railcar manufacturers, shippers and railcar leasing companies have established a “tank car working group” to help evaluate and determine if recommendations on safety improvements to new tanker cars are needed.
  • The oil industry reported that 30 percent of the cars currently in service are the newer, safer CPC-1232 cars manufactured after 2011, and they will work to double that to 60 percent by 2015.

“Today, we met with regulators, railroad industry and oil industry leaders to address moving crude oil by rail as safely as possible,” Hoeven said. “The goal is to minimize the risk of derailments and prevent fires or explosions if a derailment occurs. The approach needs to be comprehensive and collaborative, and all three groups need to be part of the solution.”

“My first priority is to make sure we are doing all we can to keep North Dakotans safe. We were very fortunate no one was hurt as a result of the Casselton derailment, but we can’t sit on our hands,” said Heitkamp. “Today we had a very frank discussion about what steps need to be taken to improve railroad transportation safety. In the weeks and months ahead, I plan to continue to work to bring together regulators and industry leaders to reach consensus about what needs to be done to improve the rail transportation system. To do this we must work together to understand what happened, what can be done to prevent accidents, and how we can mitigate the impact if there is a derailment.”

“I am encouraged the oil and rail industries and government officials are working together to find a solution which will restore public confidence in rail transportation and provide better safety to our citizens,” said Cramer.

Hoeven, Heitkamp and Cramer are working with industry and federal officials at all levels to address the issue of safely transporting oil and gas by rail. The delegation has scheduled a meeting on Saturday, January 18 in Casselton to brief the public and local officials about their progress in improving railway safety. The delegation has also asked Secretary Foxx and federal officials to visit North Dakota once PHMSA has completed its testing in the Bakken.