WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS/AP) – The Transportation Department issued an emergency order Wednesday requiring that railroads inform state emergency management officials about the movement of large shipments of crude oil through their states and urged shippers not to use older model tanks cars that are easily ruptured in accidents, even at slow speeds.
The emergency order requires that each railroad operating trains containing more than 1 million gallons of crude oil — the equivalent of about 35 tank cars — from the booming Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada provide information on the trains’ expected movement, including frequency and county-by-county routes, to the states they traverse. The order also requires that railroads disclose the volume of oil being transported and how emergency responders can contact “at least one responsible party” at the railroad.
Much of the oil from the region is being shipped across the U.S. and Canada in trains of 100 cars or more that accident investigators have described as “moving pipelines.” The trains traverse small towns and big cities alike. Local and state officials, fire chiefs and other emergency responders have complained that they often have no information on the contents of the freight trains moving through communities and their schedules. Nor are they able to force railroads to provide that information, they say.
Earlier this year, KPIX 5 discovered fracked oil being moved through the Bay Area in an operation so hush hush that even the state’s energy commission didn’t know about it. Here’s the report:
CBS insider Phil Matier thinks that notifications are a good idea but said the problem lies in what happens beyond that should a disaster occur because, presently, there is no system or funds to do deal with such an event.
“For years we’ve had our oil come in on tanker ships; you see them come though the bay. We’ve set up the funds for that. We’ve set up the procedures because that’s how we’ve done it. We don’t have the funding for land we don’t have it for the rails yet,” Matier said.
Matier said, if something happens on railway line, the first people to respond are the local people who happen to be at that particular place.