Driven by growth in the production of oil in the U.S. and Canada, there has been a significant increase in rail transportation of crude oil over the past five years, with a corresponding increase in the number of accidents. Many oil trains pass through sensitive environmental habitats and densely populated areas, and even share track with commuter trains in some regions.
In 2013, more oil spilled from U.S. trains than in the previous four decades combined. These crude-by-rail accidents have resulted in serious damage to the environment as well as fatalities; 47 people died in the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec accident.
Policy Integrity recently submitted public comments on proposed enhanced tank car standards and operational controls for “High-Hazard Flammable Trains” to the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
In the interest of better protecting public safety and maximizing net benefits from the proposed rule, we suggest that the agency:
- Explain the rationale for its selected timeline and alternatives, and consider additional options that would increase safety, such as phasing-out DOT-111 cars on an accelerated timeline;
- Improve its calculation of costs and benefits by using the best available data, and fully account for co-benefits and countervailing risks;
- Provide more detailed guidance on how to perform train routing analysis to maximize net benefits;
- Collaborate with states to increase compliance with federal regulations; and
- Collect more accurate data on accident causes, and continuously improve safety standards.