West Virginia Derailment a Reminder of Delay in Tank-Car Rule

WASHINGTON (CQ-Roll Call/TNS) -

An oil-train derailment, explosion and fire near Mount Carbon, W.V., on Monday seems likely to increase pressure on the Obama administration to speed the release of a regulation to require more robust oil-tank cars.

“You don’t see the Kanawha River on fire every day,” reporter Bob Aaron, who was at the scene, said on Charleston, W.V., station WCHS Monday after the CSX train derailed and at least one tank car went into the river. “It is a huge, huge ball of flame.”

CSX said in a statement Monday that “at least one rail car appears to have ruptured and caught fire.”

The railroad said its workers were cooperating “with first responders to address the fire, to determine how many rail cars derailed, and to deploy environmental protective measures and monitoring on land, air and in the nearby Kanawha River.”

The 109-car train was traveling from North Dakota to an oil terminal in Yorktown, Va.

The accident occurred two days after a Canadian National Railways train carrying oil derailed in Ontario.

In an interview Friday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was asked when the pending tank-car standard will come from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), as members of Congress have been saying the administration should just issue the rule and then the industry will know what it has to contend with.

“I agree with the members of Congress that this needs to come out as quickly as possible” Foxx replied.

But, he said, there is “a very rigorous process that rules have to go through.”

“We have been working very closely with our Canadian counterparts, working very closely with our inter-agency partners, to craft a rule that we think is sensible and also protects the public to the greatest extent we can,” Foxx said.

He added, “Right now, the rule has been moved out of the DOT (Department of Transportation) over to the Office of Management and Budget for a very thorough look at lots of things, including cost-benefit analysis, and we’re pushing forward as fast as we can.”

At a Feb. 3 hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, ranking Democrat Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon said the rule is “lost somewhere in the (depths) of the administration between the agency and the trolls over at the Office of Management and Budget who will further delay the ruling.”

PHMSA has “managed to mangle the rule by merging it together with operational issues which are much more difficult to deal with and controversial,” DeFazio said.