By Julia Edwards and Ros Krasny
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON Jan 6 U.S. Senator Charles
Schumer on Monday called for an overhaul of old rail tank cars
used to carry crude oil after a spate of explosive derailments
over the past year.
The New York Democrat joined a growing number of politicians
concerned about the safety of transporting large volumes of oil
by rail across the country, calling for a phase-out or retrofit
of old tankers that do not meet current safety standards and are
prone to puncture.
"There are serious safety concerns about the rail cars that
carry this oil and the risk they pose to the lives of New
Yorkers, to our infrastructure, and our environment," Schumer
told reporters on Monday.
Last week a BNSF train carrying crude oil in the
booming oil state of North Dakota derailed and exploded after
hitting another derailed train carrying grain.
The tank cars involved in that accident were the older type of
DOT-111 cars that do not meet new standards introduced in 2011,
While no one was injured, it was the fourth major accident
in the past year involving a train carrying crude oil. The most
devastating occurred in Quebec in July last year, when a train
derailed and exploded in the town of Lac Megantic, killing 47.
A boom in U.S. oil production has drastically increased the
number of oil trains moving across the country as pipelines fail
to keep up with growing supply. In the United States, 1,400
trains carry crude each day today, up from 31 in 2009, according
to a figure Schumer cited from the National Transportation
Hundreds of these trains make their way down the Hudson
Valley north of New York City each day, heading for oil
refineries in New Jersey, according to Schumer.
"If they derail at a point near the Hudson River, we're
talking about massive amounts of oil being dumped into the
Hudson and the Port of New York," he said.
Schumer, who raised the issue of tank car standards after
the Lac Megantic disaster, is now calling on the U.S. Department
of Transportation to finish a rulemaking process that will
impose requirements on freight rail carriers to phase out or
retrofit the cars to help avoid explosions and spills.
New rules are expected to be drafted this year, though the
industry is divided about how much a major overhaul would cost
and how long it would take. Tank car owners say retrofits could
cost tens of thousands of dollars per tank car.
Schumer is the latest in a growing rank of politicians on
both the federal and state levels calling for improvements.
North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven met with the
president of BNSF Railway on Saturday to discuss railroad safety
after the derailment. Robert Harms, chairman of North Dakota's
Republican party and an energy industry consultant, called for a
slowdown in North Dakota's oil boom following the accident.