to question oil-by-rail safety; tank cars a concern
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[February 26, 2014]
By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers are
expected to question regulators and rail industry officials on Wednesday
about several recent fiery derailments, focusing on whether shipments
from energy producing regions such as North Dakota's Bakken area are
being handled safely.
A subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Transportation
Committee will hear from the officials with the rail and oil sectors
as well as U.S. Department of Transportation officials who are
responsible for safe shipments.
"We need to understand what government agencies and transportation
stakeholders are doing to ensure safety on the system," said Rep.
Jeff Denham, a California Republican who will convene the panel.
One area of concern has been how fuel is handled as it moves from
fields to refiners and whether hazardous material rules account for
pressure that can build during such deliveries.
Existing hazardous material rules envision a test for the initial
boiling point of crude oil and the liquid's flash point, or the
temperature at which it will combust with a spark.
But the rules do not expect a test for pressure and some lawmakers
and Congressional staff say that is a blind spot in the regulations
that should be addressed.
"The pressure and volatility of these shipments have not been
getting enough attention," said Rep. Rick Larsen, whose district in
Washington state is home to a Tesoro Corp refinery that routinely
receives shipments of oil from the Bakken region on railcars.
In March, a Tesoro executive reported that its refinery in
Anacortes, Washington, was seeing pressures climb on its Bakken rail
shipments. (for full report see: http://r.reuters.com/mun27v)
Officials did not test vapor pressure on crude oil samples that led
to fines against Hess Corp, Marathon Oil Corp and Whiting Petroleum
Corp early this month.
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The companies were later cited for wrongly classifying cargo tanks
hauling fuel from the field to a railhead in October, and a DOT
official said tank car pressure was now being scrutinized more
"This market is evolving fast, and people are demanding that we get
clear answers on the dangers," said Larsen, who has heard from
communities along the oil-by-rail route in his district.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 2pm EST (1900 GMT). Among those
scheduled to speak are Joseph Szabo, head of the Federal Railroad
Administration and Cynthia Quarterman, administrator of the Pipeline
and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, both arms of the
Department of Transportation.
Also on the bill are Jack Gerard, president of the American
Petroleum Institute, and Edward Hamberger, president of the
Association of American Railroads.
(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Ken Wills)
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