Senator Warner brought together more than 80 federal, state and local officials to discuss how to make crude oil-by-rail safer following the April 30 derailment of a 105-unit oil train in Lynchburg. Joining the Senator in Richmond yesterday were representatives from CSX, which operates the railroad, the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Lynchburg’s Fire Chief, and the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, according to the Lynchburg News and Advance. They had a frank conversation about how to improve the safety of these trains to protect Virginians.
Lynchburg’s Fire Chief Brad Ferguson briefed participants on the incident, in which 17 of 105 tanker cars holding volatile Bakken crude oil derailed in the city’s downtown. Senator Warner called it “chilling” to see images of the huge fire, which was caused by only one breached car.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that in July, tanker cars loaded with the same type of crude oil derailed and were breached in a town in Quebec, burning much of the town and killing 47 people.
“We were very fortunate that this car went to the river side and down the bank,” and was more easily contained, Chief Ferguson said.
After discussion amongst the officials and comments from attendees, Senator Warner called for speedy implementation of better regulations for oil trains. He also urged oil producers and rail companies to commit to better safety efforts.
A week after the Lynchburg derailment, the Senator pushed the Department of Transportation (DoT) to require railroads to implement better information sharing procedures with state and local level emergency management officials so that local first responders can be better prepared.
Additionally, he asked DoT to move forward in the process of making rules to improve safety for cars carrying volatile Bakken crude oil.
Following the Senator’s letter, DoT issued two emergency orders addressing the concerns raised in the letter. The Administration has yet to release proposed rules for oil train safety for public comment and, yesterday, Senator Warner again pushed for progress.
“I think we desperately need to move forward with new safety standards,” Senator Warner said. “The Department of Transportation has been working on this for some time. But it’s time to move these discussions from the discussion phase into the implementation phase.”
WDBJ-TV reported that the Senator said rail shipments of crude oil have increased 46 fold since 2008, and those numbers are likely to continuing growing.