Feds announce new safety regulations on rail transportation of oil and gas

Feb 21, 2015America’s dangerous oil transportation rail network will undergo some much needed updating, thanks to new regulations issued jointly by the U.S. and Canadian governments. On Friday, May 1, U.S. and Canadian regulators issued new requirements for rail cars that transport crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids. Many experts have suggested that it is long past time, as explosions caused by transportation of crude oil and ethanol have seen a resurgence, with a string of accidents in February and March causing significant property damage.

The new rules will phase out older tanker cars, as well as implement controlled pneumatic brakes for oil trains. There is also a new speed limit for trains moving through high-risk areas. Trains must now travel 40 mph or below in high-risk areas, and 50 mph or below otherwise. Transportation of crude oil and natural gas by rail has increased along with domestic production in recent years. Since 2008, transportation of oil and gas by rail has seen a 40-fold increase.

Effectiveness of regulations questioned

However, the full phase-out of older tank cars is expected to take up to 10 years. With production remaining high in West Virginia and elsewhere, there is still the very real possibility for future derailments, explosions, and loss of life. The most dangerous tank cars will remain in operation for at least another two years; other outdated tank cars can remain in operation for up to seven more years. Even tank cars built to the new standards will not prevent an explosion if a train carrying oil or gas derails at 50 mph.

In West Virginia, the transportation of gas and oil also involves tanker trucks, which carry their own risk on the mountainous, winding roads of the state. West Virginia’s bountiful natural resources means that oil, gas and coal are continually being transported across the state through pipelines, trucks, and rail. That can also lead to accidents, such as the 109-car oil train derailment and explosion that occurred in Kanawha and Fayette counties on February 17, 2015.

Legal help for injuries

While residents near rails are in danger, the workers involved in the transportation of oil and gas are the most at risk. At Bailey, Javins & Carter, LLC, our attorneys have protected the rights of West Virginia oil and gas workers for decades. Contact our office if you or a loved one suffered the consequences of the state’s outdated oil and gas transportation system.