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DOT Rule Overlooks Root Causes of Derailment

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), which represents the majority of refiners that transport crude by rail, will file comments today in response to the proposed rule on "Enhanced Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains," introduced by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on Aug. 1, 2014. The proposed rule, which focused primarily on rail cars, did not address the causes behind recent derailments – lack of track integrity and rail inspections.

"While DOT's rule places appropriate attention on tank car standards, it fails to give adequate consideration to the root causes of recent derailments. DOT needs to prioritize a rulemaking that addresses the primary causes of these derailments, which include track integrity, rail inspections and personnel training. Investment in derailment prevention would result in the greatest reduction in risk of transporting all hazardous materials," said David Friedman, AFPM vice president of regulatory affairs.

"Shippers of crude oil have demonstrated a commitment to a safer rail car standard well in advance of this rulemaking, having spent more than $3 billion since 2011 to purchase new upgraded CPC-1232 tank cars that go far beyond existing regulatory requirements. Despite this reality, our members are willing to do more and are embracing many elements of the new tank car standards, as noted in our comments. While shippers have willingly undertaken measures to protect the communities through which our products are transported, we are just one part of the solution. The obvious answer is that the trains must remain on the tracks," Friedman continued.

While AFPM supports retrofits that are equivalent to an enhanced CPC-1232 car ( 7/16" shell thickness with jackets bottom outlet valve modification, enhanced pressure relief valve, and a head shield), it has specific concerns with the unachievable retrofit schedule DOT proposed, which allows only three years to retrofit approximately 60,000 existing tank cars. This schedule goes far beyond the capabilities of the rail tank car repair facilities, which under even the most optimistic estimates can retrofit only 6,400 cars per year. DOT was ill-advised to propose an infeasible retrofit schedule of three years, despite a warning by tank car manufacturers and tank car shops.

AFPM believes that DOT should consider recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to improve track safety standards and reduce human error. In the comments AFPM also recommends:

  • Enhanced CPC 1232 tank cars with 7/16" shell, steel jackets, and other safety features
  • Maintaining efficient rail operations

Domestic oil and gas production has grown dramatically in recent years and rail has played a critical role in facilitating the growth of domestic energy production and manufacturing, spurring the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs. Recent increases in domestic crude oil production are primarily moving by rail. This rule, if not properly implemented, could have a significant negative impact on jobs and the economy.

It is important to note that transportation by rail is very safe, with 99.997 percent of all hazardous materials moving by rail reaching its destination without incident. The refining and petrochemical industries remain committed to a culture of continuous improvements and are focused on a goal of zero incidents.

CONTACT: media@afpm.org

Source: American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers