BNSF Says Work Is Underway For Safer Oil Tranport

Oct 2, 2014

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday said state and federal governments need to take swift action to prevent and respond to oil spills, and prevent oil train explosions. One rail carrier says it is working to ensure that oil trains are safe.

An oil train passes through Spokane County in August, 2014.
Credit Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

The governor has written to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, urging only a “one-year window” to continue use of the aging, explosion prone DOT 111 rail cars, and that a 30 mile per hour speed limit be set for oil trains using the aging tanker cars. Those efforts come as train derailments have caused explosions and fires, including one incident in Quebec in 2013 that killed 47 people.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas says his company is reviewing the Governors recommendations, but that they have been working to phase out the older oil cars that are more affected by the corrosive effect of Bakken crude oil that is shipped from the North Dakota oil fields.

Melonas: “Of all the oil cars that move through, 70 percent are of the latest design that exceed federal standards, the CPC 1232 design with rollover enhancements, and full shields at the ends of each car.”

Melonas says BNSF is also committed to purchasing 5000 of the newer safer cars, but says he was unsure at this point if they would be able to meet a one year deadline proposed by Inslee. He added that when the oil tank cars pass through cities like Spokane, they are traveling below a 30 mile per hour speed limit, but they have do not have such speed restrictions when moving outside urban areas.