Archive for Hazmats

On Oil Train Safety, the Railroad Industry Needs to Lead, Or It Might Be Pushed Out of the Way

Response crews for the West Virginia train derailment continue to monitor the burning of the derailed rail cars near Mount Carbon next to the Kanawha River, Feb. 18, 2015. The West Virginia Train Derailment Unified Command continues to work with federal, state and local agencies on the response efforts for the train derailment that occurred near Mount Carbon, Feb. 15, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier)

I have been puzzling about how long it has been – more than 650 days – since the Quebec oil train explosion accident, with little substantive progress in making the transport of these trains safer.

Is it too explosive to handle? Are the trains too dangerous at any speed? Is it not worth the market effort, as some suggest? I’m still wondering about both the economics and the safety issues, and worrying about the safety of emergency first responders like my uncle and grandfather.

What’s missing in the railroad industry today?

Someone who says “the buck stops here!”

Read more

MN lawmakers demand oil train disaster response plans in wake of Heimdal crash

"Industrial" by woodleywonderworks from Flickr.com via Creative Commons License

Not impressed by railroad explanations, on 8 May 2015.

Thirty nine state legislators want to know more about how BNSF insures against a catastrophic crude oil train accident

This is the URL for the full discussion. http://bringmethenews.com/2015/05/08/mn-lawmakers-demand-oil-train-disaster-response-plans-in-wake-of-heimdal-crash/#.VU2Uve_xj68.mailto

Here is a quick summary:

1) State lawmakers have called on rail operator BNSF to provide details of how it would respond to an oil train disaster in Minnesota. The notice came two days after this week’s BNSF crude oil train crash in North Dakota. A BNSF train carrying 107 cars of crude oil from the Bakken derailed in the town of Heimdal on Wednesday. About 10 cars caught fire in what was the second major oil train crash the state has seen in the past 18 months.

2) The 39 Minnesota lawmakers have written to BNSF demanding the information it had agreed to provide back in January, details describing the company’s emergency response procedures for “worst case scenario” oil train disasters should they occur in Minnesota.

3) The House and Senate lawmakers want the company to tell the legislature about the level of catastrophic insurance coverage the company maintains in the event of crude oil train accidents, spills and explosions.

4) They want BNSF to state how the company determines and analyzes the routes through Minnesota that trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials will take. This reflects a lack of community confidence in the carriers’ storyboard after multiple accidents and little evidence of improvement.

Would new electronic train braking have made a difference on oil train accidents?

Response crews for the West Virginia train derailment continue to monitor the burning of the derailed rail cars near Mount Carbon next to the Kanawha River, Feb. 18, 2015. The West Virginia Train Derailment Unified Command continues to work with federal, state and local agencies on the response efforts for the train derailment that occurred near Mount Carbon, Feb. 15, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier)

It is not clear that proposed regulatory changes to train braking announced by the federal government on 1 May would have made any difference in any of the five crude oil train accidents so far this year.

This brake regulatory talk may mean that the FRA rule making for the brakes is a “technical distraction” from the more important changes in the oil train rules.

In the most recent crude oil by rail news:

BNSF issued the following statement regarding the May 6 North Dakota derailment: “At approximately 7:30 am CDT today, a train derailed at Heimdal, N.Dak., carrying crude oil. The train consisted of 109 total cars—107 cars loaded with crude oil and two buffer cars loaded with sand. There are no injuries but there is a fire at the scene. The tank cars involved in the incident are the unjacketed CPC-1232 models.”

The derailment was the fifth significant one this year of a crude oil train in North America.

It occured five days after the Department of Transportation announced a new rulemaking for tank cars carrying flammable liquids — including a requirement for new brake system.

What is your opinion on the proposed brake rule changes?

Meanwhile, there’s this from Bloomberg News:

Safer Oil-Train Cars, Brakes Mandated Two Years After Quebec

Virginia looks to improve emergency response at rail accidents

A Nevada National Guardsman with the 92nd Civil Support Team conducts a simulated search and rescue at a vacant building near the Community College of Aurora, Colo., July 23, 2013, during a notional F4 tornado as part of Colorado's 2013 Vigilant Guard exercise. Vigilant Guard is a series of federally funded disaster-response drills conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares/Released)

Safety oversight may be a federally regulated responsibility for railway traffic like hazmats and crude oil.

However, responding to an actual derailment and possible fires and evacuations of nearby people is the clear responsibility of local community and state agencies. Governors, mayors, and fire fighters are wrestling with technical issues on how to be better prepared. With or without federal help.

Here, briefly, is how rail experts in Virginia see the local and state technical issues. Other states like Pennsylvania and Minnesota are tacking the question for their elected officials. Reports from those states on improving and managing rail safety are expected later this month.