News Releases

OIL TRAINS: Murray Bill Calls for New Rail Safety Policies, Focuses on Short Line Railroads, Sets Oct. 1 Deadline for Stronger Tank Car Rules

Jun 05 2014

After holding a hearing focused on oil train safety, Murray-authored Transportation spending bill focuses on challenges related to crude-by-rail

Murray continues pushing DOT to focus on neglected short line rail safety, funds new safety institute

**Map of short line railroads in Washington state** 

(Washington, D.C.)  Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), announced that her 2015 federal transportation and housing bill, which passed through the full Appropriations Committee today, includes critical new rail safety policies, requires that DOT issue a final rule on tank car standards by October 1, 2014, and includes funding for a new safety institute for short line railroads in Washington state and across the country. The bill will now be considered by the full Senate.

In April, Senator Murray held a hearing on the risks and procedures for rail shipment of crude oil in Washington state.  In May, Senator Murray and her Republican colleague, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), called on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish a Short Line Railroad Institute.  DOT has taken steps to do this, and the transportation spending bill, written by Senator Murray and passed by the committee today, includes funding for the institute to begin work next year.

“In Washington state and across the country, the rapid increase in transportation of crude oil by rail presents us with new and challenging safety concerns,” said Senator Murray.  “We all need to recognize that these trains are already moving in states across the country, including Washington, and that there are steps we can take now to make our communities safer.”

Oil train-related safety measures included Senator Murray’s legislation:

  • An October 1, 2014 deadline for DOT to issue a final rule for new tank car design standards
  • Mandates comprehensive oil spill response plans for rail carriers
  • Funding for a new Short Line Railroad Safety Institute for safety training for short line railroads transporting crude and ethanol, which Senator Murray and her Republican counterpart, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), have called for.
  • 20 new hazardous materials and rail safety inspectors, as well as full funding for the 45 rail safety staff provided in 2014
  • $3 million to expand the use of automated track inspections to ensure proper track maintenance on crude oil routes, covering 14,000 miles of rack nationwide
  • A new, web-based hazardous materials emergency response training program to help tribes and local agencies prepare for potential rail accidents involving crude oil
  • Continued research into:
    • The volatility of Bakken crude oil (which is transported through Washington state)
    • Bulk tank car design standards for tank cars carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG)
    • Retrofitting existing tank cars to meet stronger new safety standards
    • Accident analysis and mitigation