Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 23, 2014

Contact: Mollie Matteson, (802) 318-1487

Government Report: More Oil Train Accidents, Spills Likely Without Swift Regulation

Current Proposals Likely to Fall Short of Curbing Recent Surge in Accidents

WASHINGTON— A new U.S. Government Accountability Office report issued this week concludes current proposals to upgrade safety requirements for oil transport by rail and pipeline are likely to fall short of preventing more accidents and spills unless the pace of regulation is stepped up. The recent North American oil boom, driven by new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), has been responsible for an exponential increase in oil transportation and infrastructure throughout the United States. But a spate of fiery derailments and devastating oil spills has escalated public concern about the mounting dangers associated with rapidly increased oil production and intensified calls for stricter rules to govern oil transport.

“This report underscores the fact that the Department of Transportation is moving far too slowly to protect lives and safeguard our environment,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For starters, the notoriously unsafe DOT-111 tank cars need to be banned immediately from shipping highly flammable Bakken crude oil. We can’t afford to wait another five years.”

The Department is currently accepting public comments on a proposed rule to phase out DOT-111 tank cars for hauling “Bakken” crude oil from North Dakota. For 20 years safety experts have identified these tank cars as unsafe for shipping flammable and hazardous materials, but only since several explosive train wrecks in the past year, one of which killed nearly four dozen people, has the Department acted to actually take the cars out of use. Concerned citizens, at-risk communities along the rail lines and environmental groups, among others, want the Department to act more aggressively to take the tank cars off the rails now instead of waiting up to five years.

“These puncture-prone DOT-111 cars have been called ‘soda cans’ and the ‘Ford Pintos of the rails,’ ” said Matteson. “There’s no excuse for continuing to endanger people’s lives and the vital waterways paralleled by railroad tracks — including iconic rivers like the Hudson in New York and the Columbia in the Pacific Northwest. Human safety, healthy drinking water and wildlife habitat are all at stake. The DOT-111s need to be banned right now.”

The Department of Transportation is taking public comment until Sept. 30 on its proposed new rules for the DOT-111 tank cars and oil train transportation. Center for Biological Diversity members have already sent in more than 18,000 comments on the rule asking the Department to issue an immediate ban on the dangerous cars.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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