North Dakota senators press feds on rail safety

Jan. 10, 2014 at 6:37 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- North Dakota's U.S. senators said the federal government needs to do more to ensure the safe travel of oil and natural gas on the nation's rail network.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, and John Hoeven, a Republican, met in Washington with Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration director Cynthia Quarterman to discuss railway safety in the wake of a derailment in North Dakota.

No injuries were reported after a BNSF Railway train carrying oil from the Bakken reserve area in North Dakota derailed last week near the town of Casselton.

"It is incredibly important for North Dakota that we have smart rail regulations in place," Heitkamp said in a statement Thursday. "They will give certainty to our shippers and, most importantly, respond to the very legitimate safety concerns of North Dakotans."

The PHMSA issued a safety alert last week saying the type of crude oil in the Bakken reserve area may be more flammable than other grades.

So-called DOT-111 rail cars have come under scrutiny as well. U.S. safety regulators said older DOT-111 cars may be more vulnerable to leaks or explosions than other types of rail cars.

The PHMSA told the senators it was taking samples of crude oil from North Dakota and Texas to try to set a standard for rail car construction.

An increase in North American crude oil production has outstripped existing pipeline capacity, prompting energy companies to turn to rail for oil deliveries.

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