11 March 2015, News Wires – Canada and the US are “very close” to announcing stronger new oil tanker rail car standards, intended to limit disastrous fires and pollution when oil trains derail, Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said on Tuesday.
A spate of fiery accidents in the oil-by-rail industry has resulted in intense pressure on both governments. More oil is being shipped by rail due in North America due to a shortage of pipeline capacity.
“We’ve been working really diligently with the US… in terms of trying to get to the new tank safety standard, and I think we’re really close to announcing what that looks like,” Reuters quoted Raitt as saying.
Canada had implemented its own temporary new standard, called CPC-1232, requiring a thicker tank, top-fitting protection and a pressure-relief system. The new bi-national regulations are expected to go further.
The cars involved in the most recent Canadian accident in northern Ontario on Saturday were CPC-1232s. Raitt said nine of them ruptured despite the stricter rules.
It was the third oil derailment by Canadian National Railway in the last month, and Raitt recommended that the House of Commons transport committee summon the company to explain its recent accidents.
Meanwhile, the US rail industry is pushing the White House to drop a requirement that oil trains adopt an advanced braking system, a cornerstone of a national safety plan that will soon govern shipments of crude across the country.
Representatives of large rail operators met with White House officials last week to argue against the need for electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, or ECP brakes, saying they “would not have significant safety benefits” and “would be extremely costly”, Reuters reported.
ECP brakes trigger all axles simultaneously rather than one at a time in current design.
The Transportation Department has concluded that ECP braking would deliver meaningful safety improvements but industry officials argued that the department estimates “grossly overstate benefits and understate costs”.
The industry claims fitting rail stock with ECP brakes would not prevent accidents, but merely limit the number of cars that derail in an accident.
Adopting the new technology would lead to more frequent service problems and mechanical delays, industry officials said.
The oil train safety plan being considered by the White House would also demand tougher tank cars and other safety steps that the government estimates would cost at least $3 billion over the next 20 years.