The federal government passed new rules today regarding the way North America moves crude oil by rail in their latest effort attempting to stop a string of fiery train crashes.
According to NBC News, the regulations require retrofitting or phasing out the current fleet of tank cars, which became the focus of national attention after a series of explosive accidents across the continent, including a tragic derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people.
Crude oil delivery by rail has increased 4,000 percent since 2008 due to the North American oil production boom. The regulations have lagged behind. A 2013 NBC News investigation found most of that crude oil was transported in tank cars that regulators had for years known had a tendency to leak, rupture, or explode.
New regulations will require tank cars with thicker shells, thermal protection and better end and valve protections to prevent rupture. “Unit” trains – those that exclusively carry crude – must have new braking systems by 2021 or slow to 30 miles per hour. Trains with older cars will be forced to slow to 40 miles per hour in urban areas.
The new set of standards “significantly improves current regulations and requirements,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Friday. “It will make transporting flammable materials by rail safer than it is today.” Canadian regulators worked with the Department of Transportation to develop the new standards.
The American Petroleum Association also pushed back, saying questions remained as to whether “each change will make a meaningful improvement to safety,” according to a press release. The group warned that the retrofit schedule may strain existing shop capacity to overhaul the trains.
The rail overhaul will not be easy or cheap, said Canadian Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt. But standing beside U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx at the podium, she defended the new rules.
“I believe that we truly have to act to honor those who died and honor those who were injured,” she said.