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Managed by Paul J. Loftus, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Transportation Law Today provides professionals in the rail, transit, inland maritime, and trucking industries with current news and analysis of laws, rulings, and regulatory policies.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

USDOT Issues Emergency Crude by Rail Order & Safety Advisory

Yesterday, the USDOT issued an Emergency Order requiring all railroads operating trains carrying Bakken crude oil in the U.S. to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about the operation of the trains through their states. The Emergency Order (Docket No. DOT-OST-2014-0067) requires railroads operating trains carrying Bakker crude containing more than 1,000,000 gallons (approximately 35 rail cars) to notify SERCs of the estimated volumes of Bakken crude, frequency of anticipated traffic, and the route for transport.

Also yesterday, the FRA and PHMSA issued a joint Safety Advisory, "strongly recommending" the use of tank cars with the "highest level of integrity" when transporting Bakken crude. The advisory recommends that older DOT 111 tank cars not be used "to the extent possible." The Safety Advisory does not constitute a ban on the use of older tank cars.

Needless to say, yesterday's actions follow another high profile derailment and fire involving a train carrying crude oil in Lynchburg, VA on April 30th. USDOT's action also follow the recent NTSB crude by rail forum, during which Canadian authorities announced a ban on the use of certain DOT 111 tank cars for hazardous materials in Canada; here is Transport Canada's order. DOT's action on tank cars is not as drastic as the ban by the Canadians, but it appears to be initial steps while more formal rules are being developed.