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U.S. lax on rail safety, Nebraska says

Washington isn't doing enough to ensure oil shipped by rail safe, Nebraska lawmakers say.

By Daniel J. Graeber
U.S. lax on rail safety, Nebraska says
Federal government absent on oil-by-rail safety, Nebraska lawmakers say. UPI/Gary C. Caskey | License Photo

CASSELTON, N.D., April 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. federal government isn't meeting its obligations when it comes to the safety of transporting crude oil by rail, North Dakota legislators said.

Canada this week ordered older models of DOT-111 railcars out of service in response to a series of derailments, including last year's accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which left more than 40 people dead.

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Nebraska Rep. Kevin Cramer said the U.S. federal government, however, wasn't showing the same level of responsibility as its Canadian counterparts.

"Communities and industry have waited more than two years for new rules concerning the DOT-111 tanker, while rail demand continues to accelerate," the Republican lawmaker said Thursday. "The federal government must do better."

Cramer, Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D,. met in Casselton, N.D., with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to discuss ways to improve rail safety.

About 950 barrels of oil spilled when two trains operated by BNSF Railway collided and derailed near Casselton in late December.

An accelerated rate of oil production from shale plays in North America has strained existing refinery capacity, forcing some energy companies to turn to rail as an alternate transit method.

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Hoeven's office said more than 400,000 carloads of oil from the state's Bakken reserve area were delivered last year, compared with 9,500 carloads reported in 2008.

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