BALTIMORE (WJZ) — More crude oil than ever is being transported through major cities on trains. And after four derailments in seven months, the federal government is now taking action.
Mike Hellgren has more on the new emergency order.
It comes for the Department of Transportation and puts tougher regulations on the transport of crude oil by train. It’s unclear how much crude oil is taken through Maryland, but there is a record amount being transported on the nation’s railways.
The number of frightening incidents is growing. A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Quebec, Canada last July, killing 47 people.
Then, last December, another crude-carrying train exploded after an accident in North Dakota.
And closer to home in Philadelphia, January 20, another oil train derailed.
The alarming incidents come as the amount of oil transported on trains has jumped 400 percent in the past ten years.
“These accidents we’ve had are testimony to the risks associated with moving oil by rail,” said John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil.
Now, federal regulators are taking action, testing contents, requiring tougher cars and fining violators $175,000 per violation per day it’s not fixed.
“We learn as we go and we respond appropriately to what we learn,” said Hofmeister.
Maryland had its own brush with tragedy on May 28, 2013 in Rosedale when a train carrying sodium chlorate and other dangerous chemicals exploded.
“I couldn’t breathe,” one witness said. “It knocked me backwards down the hill.”
“If I was in front of this door, I’d have probably been hurt,” another said.
As for crude oil transport, CSX declined to reveal where it’s taken in Maryland, citing security concerns in a published report, but noted they are compliant with all federal regulations.
“We’ve been transporting oil on rail cars for well over 100 years. But there have been accidents, there have been incidences,” Hofmeister said. “But the industry and government have to work together to try to find ways to de-risk the process.”
Much of the big increase in crude oil production in the United States is because of a boom in fracking in North Dakota. A lot of that crude oil does make it east.
An NTSB chairwoman says safety regulations need to catch to what she calls the new reality.
Several mayors, including those in Chicago, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, have proposed fees on companies that ship the crude oil and industries that use it. That money would be used to build safer railways.
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