Casey pushes oil train safety legislation

  • Marie Cusick
“It’s a substantial step in the right direction," Senator Casey says of new federal oil train rules. "But just like anything else, it has to be complimentary to what we do legislatively.”

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

“It’s a substantial step in the right direction," Senator Casey says of new federal oil train rules. "But just like anything else, it has to be complimentary to what we do legislatively.”

Senator Bob Casey (D) says the U.S. needs to do a better job of investing in safety, training, and preparation for the massive increase in shipments of crude oil by train. Deadly derailments, spills, and close-call accidents have sparked a push for tougher regulations.

On Friday, the federal Department of Transportation announced new rules for oil trains, which will phase out the current tank cars, implement stronger tank car standards, and require upgraded braking systems.

Speaking in Harrisburg Monday, Casey says he’s co-sponsoring a new bill, along with six other Democrats, called the Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act.

“Communities need to be given more information,” he says. “The rule is a step forward, but we need to make sure we add to that with legislation.”

The bill would create a new fee for the use of the older, DOT-111 tank cars. The fees would start at $175 per car, per shipment and increase annually. The money would be used to fund spill clean-up costs, $45 million would go toward first responder training grants to communities with heavy rail traffic, and $100 million in grants to reroute rail tracks with high volumes of flammable liquids and to help states hire more inspectors. The measure would also require federal agencies to collect more information on oil trains and conduct safety studies.

Last week, Governor Wolf announced he was appointing an expert to spend three month evaluating the risks Pennsylvania faces from crude oil shipments. About 70 to 80 trains carrying more than a million gallons of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale move across Pennsylvania each week.

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