Lac-Megantic disaster sparks rail review

Aug. 30, 2013 at 8:24 AM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. regulators said they held an extraordinary session to consider new safeguards for rail traffic in the wake of the deadly Lac-Megantic oil car derailment.

At least 40 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in the early July derailment of a train carrying tankers of crude oil from North Dakota to Canadian refineries. Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway blamed the air brakes on the locomotive for the accident.

The Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee said it is considering new regulations in the wake of the accident. The committee said it was assessing recommendations from the FRA as well as those from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

"As greater quantities of [hazardous materials] are transported by rail and other modes, the risks increase and we have to make sure our regulations are keeping pace with market and technology forces," PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman said Thursday. "We have to work together to identify gaps, be willing to acknowledge them and close them."

The Association of American Railroads said crude oil deliveries by rail during the second quarter of 2013 increased 11.8 percent from the previous quarter. It said U.S. railways transport approximately 11 percent of crude oil produced domestically, "up from virtually none a few years ago."

Existing pipeline capacity in the United States is not enough to keep up with increases in domestic crude oil production.

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