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Environmental group sues DOT over oil train rules

A statewide environmental organization has filed a federal court challenge against the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new oil train regulations, saying they don’t come close to fully protecting the public and the environment from the threat of explosions.

Riverkeeper, which aims to protect the state’s water supply, filed the federal lawsuit a week after the DOT issued its final safety rule for oil tank cars.

“These seriously flawed standards all but guarantee that there will be more explosive derailments, leaving people and the environment at grave risk,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said.

“The shortcomings are numerous, including an inadequate speed limit, unprotective tank car design, and a time line that would allow these dangerous tank cars 10 more years on the rails.”

Those comments stand in sharp contrast to what Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in introducing the rule earlier this month.

“Safety has been our top priority at every step in the process for finalizing this rule, which is a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer,” Foxx said.

Under the new rule — which the U.S. developed in conjunction with Canadian officials, safety standards would be tightened in several ways:

  • Tank cars would have to meet a new, tougher design standard, and would have to be retrofitted on a tighter time frame to meet the new standard.
  • Some trains would have to install new braking systems.
  • Routing requirements and speed restrictions would be enhanced, and more information about shipments would have to be provided to local governments.

The controversy over oil trains stems from the huge increase in shipments of oil by rail resulting from an oil boom in North Dakota, as well as development of the Alberta Oil Sands in Canada.

The state reported last year that between 20 and 35 CSX Transportation oil trains enter New York in Chautauqua County before moving north through Buffalo and several of its suburbs and then eastward toward the Port of Albany.

Because federal law requires that such challenges to DOT regulations be made at the appeals court level, Riverkeeper filed its lawsuit in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.

In related news, Tesoro building crude railcars stronger than new US rules require.

This article was written by Jerry Zremski from The Buffalo News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.