More crude-by-rail oversight needed: Pa. governor

OREANDA-NEWS. More federal oversight of crude-by-rail is needed in a state where 60-70 trains of Bakken crude pass through weekly, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf said in a letter to US president Barack Obama.

Pennsylvania sees some of the largest volumes of Bakken crude oil transportation by rail in the US, Wolf said in the letter date 27 February. There have been four train derailments in Pennsylvania since January 2014, including two within the city of Philadelphia.

"We cannot afford to wait for a major incident before taking action," Wolf said. "Now is the time for action in order to increase safety and reduce risk."

The governor joins other states heavily trafficked in crude-by-rail in calling for reforms. New York governor Andrew Cuomo has been vociferous in calling for change and has stepped up inspections of tracks and railyards. Washington state is considering a crude-by-rail tax, as is New York.

In the letter to the president, Wolf called for federal standards to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude, federal assistance in hiring rail safety inspectors and improved standards in braking systems and tank cars. He also noted that derailments and explosions have occurred at slower speeds than the federal standard of 40mph in high-density urban areas, and asked for further review of revisions to the speed limit.

"The pace of federal rulemaking on rail safety is too slow. We urge that new federal safety rules be developed and implemented with a sense of urgency appropriate to the risk presented," Wolf said.

Wolf's office has labeled crude-by-rail safety a top priority. The state has conducted an emergency planning exercise to model response to a crude train derailment in an urban area. It has met with executive at rail operator Norfolk Southern and plans to meet with CSX. Wolf has directed the Pennsylvania Office of the Fire Commissioner to examine how an oil train fire could be extinguished if needed and kicked off a review of rail infrastructure inspections by federal and state inspectors.