Transportation Department Sued By Groups Concerned Over Oil Trains

May 18, 2015

Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Transportation over new rules for oil train traffic that they say do not go far enough to protect against catastrophic accidents.

The number of oil train accidents and ensuing fires or explosions are popping up in the news more frequently., the most recent being an explosion near Heimdal, North Dakota. Part of the reason is the newer crude oil that is being pumped from the Bakken oil fields is more combustible.

In an effort to reduce the number of fires and accidents, the US Department of transportation issued a new rule that calls for phasing out older oil tank cars from the nations rail lines.

Those cars are more subject to corrosion form the Bakken oil, and more prone to break open in the event of an accident.

But Spokane Riverkeeper Jerry White says the ten year timeline to get rid of the older cars is not fast enough.

White: “The DOT's 111 cars that are carrying this Bakken crude, they’re really not safe at all to carry this Bakkan crude.There is a move to go to the industry standard car, the CPC 1232, but they are not significantly safer. And theyre getting a ten year window to phase those in, and we’d like to see and all out ban."

Critics of the new DOT rule say it also guts public notification requirements, so city authorities are left without specific information about when oil trains may be passing through their communities.

Those who are challenging the federal rule include the Riverkeeper, as well as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and the Washington Environmental Council.