H.R. 1679, addressing “the safe transportation of Bakken crude oil by rail,” was introduced to the United States Senate on March 26, 2015, one day after a the S.859 bill was issued regarding oil volatility and increased railroad transportation safety. The recent attention for improving the safety of crude by rail has been pushed by a handful of Democrats, including Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), the leader of the S.859. “This bill is showing our impatience with the fact that (the White House plan) doesn’t include volatility and we think it should,” she said to Reuters.
There have been four train derailments thus far in 2015, but, fortunately, no injuries. The use of crude by rail has climbed considerably in recent years as the U.S. shale boom has pushed takeaway capacity to its limits. Rail takeaway capacity in North Dakota is six times greater than it was in 2011. Crude pipelines have only doubled in the same time frame.
A letter obtained by Reuters that was signed by seven Democratic Senators called the cars “outdated,” and “pose a very immediate and undeniable risk to communities all across the United States.” Current plans being considered by the White House include adding more steel to existing shells and implementing more advanced designs to the new cars. The American Petroleum Institute issued a news release calling for improving rail safety in general, rather than focus on the actual contents of the shipments.
A September 2014 report from the American Association of Railroads says the number of incidents in relation to miles traveled is at its lowest level in history. The report also says railroads have invested $115 billion back into its infrastructure in the last five years, and companies are constantly implementing new technology.
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