Hoeven Updates Grand Forks Mayor on Rail Safety Issues, Grafton Mayor on Flood Insurance Legislation

Senator Discusses his Work with DOT Secretary on Rail Safety and Pending Legislation to Keep Flood Insurance Affordable

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today met in Washington with Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, Grafton Mayor Chris West and other Grand Forks and Grafton officials to discuss the cities’ and region’s priorities. Hoeven and Brown discussed a wide range of topics, with a focus on rail safety. Hoeven updated Brown on his efforts to encourage improved and timely rules for tank car construction from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and also his work to bring Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx, who oversees PHMSA, to North Dakota.

The senator also updated West on legislation to keep flood insurance premium rates affordable for homeowners and businesses. Hoeven said the House bill is now in the Senate, and it will likely be the bill that passes Congress. Like the Senate bill, the House bill prevents the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from steeply raising rates and keeps rates affordable for homeowners and business. Also like the Senate bill, the House requires FEMA to conduct an affordability study and report to Congress within 18 months. It also includes the Hoeven-Heitkamp-Cramer basement exception, which enables homeowners to receive credit for flood proofed basements when determining flood insurance rates.

“We’ve been working for over a year to address issues related to the safe transport of crude oil, including tank car standards, appropriate speed limits, track inspections and improved communication technologies to avert collisions,” Hoeven said. “We’ve made a great deal of progress, including new voluntary safety measures that the industry is implementing. However, our work is not yet done, and we will continue to engage all parties - federal regulators, railroads, shippers and communities along the tracks – to ensure we have the smartest, safest rail practices in place.”

In December 2012, Hoeven wrote PHMSA Administrator Cynthia L. Quarterman asking her to expedite rules governing the construction of new, safer tanker cars. Following the Casselton derailment, in January, Hoeven organized two delegation meetings with Secretary Foxx, Administrator Quarterman and a group of industry leaders to develop strategies to prevent derailments and to reduce the risk of fire or explosions should a derailment occur. During the first meeting, Hoeven invited Foxx to visit North Dakota to further address the issue of rail safety by speaking directly with the people of Casselton and the state, a visit that Foxx has committed to make in the near future.

In February, the Association of American Railroads and Secretary Foxx announced that the industry will implement a host of new measures to enhance safety, including: increased track inspections, reduced speeds, improved braking systems and technology to better determine the safest and most secure rail routes for trains with 20 or more cars of crude oil. Hoeven also secured a commitment from BNSF to make unprecedented $5 billion investments in rail infrastructure, including $400 million in North Dakota and $600 million in the railroad’s northern tier.

The group also discussed other major Grand Forks priorities, including Grand Sky, a cutting-edge unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology park the county is building on approximately 217 acres at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Hoeven helped to secure an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) from the U.S. Air Force for the project and brought Northrop Grumman to Grand Forks to become the park’s anchor tenant. The group also discussed water projects, transportation, flood insurance and other issues important to the Grand Forks region.

Hoeven updated Brown and the officials on his efforts to advance the air base’s Global Hawk mission. The Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus bill passed in January includes language authored by Hoeven that funds the entire Air Force Global Hawk fleet through Fiscal Year 2014. The senator pressed for language that ensures both the Global Hawk Block 30 and Block 40 fleets are retained. At the same time, the Air Force has indicated it will discontinue funding for the older U-2 in 2016.