Larsen: Federal Government Must Act Quickly to Protect Communities Following Crude Oil Train Incidents

Jan 23, 2014 Issues: Transportation

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today called on the federal government to act quickly in response to recent incidents involving trains carrying crude oil. Larsen, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urging quick adoption of new measures to improve rail safety.

“I ask that you work quickly to implement measures to protect communities near trains carrying crude oil,” Larsen wrote. “I am particularly concerned about the recent accidents involving these trains, since many of them pass through communities on the way to refineries in Northwest Washington.”

In a separate letter, Larsen asked the leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to hold an oversight hearing on the issue.

Larsen has discussed the issue this month with top officials from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, BNSF Railway, the Tesoro Corporation, and the Greenbrier Companies, and has additional meetings scheduled in the coming weeks.

The full text of Larsen’s letter to Secretary Foxx follows:

January 23, 2014

The Honorable Anthony Foxx
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Foxx:

I ask that you work quickly to implement measures to protect communities near trains carrying crude oil. I am particularly concerned about the recent accidents involving these trains, since many of them pass through communities on the way to refineries in Northwest Washington.

Last week, I met with Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrator Quarterman and expressed my interest in this topic.  I have also spoken with rail stakeholders, railcar manufacturers, refiners, oil companies, and the NTSB. Based on these conversations, I believe quick action is necessary. I plan to continue meeting with stakeholders and constituents on this issue.

I appreciate your recent meetings with rail and oil industry stakeholders on this issue and the announcement of voluntary measures by industry to improve safety. The Department of Transportation should act swiftly to issue new standards for rail cars transporting oil.  Without these new standards, older and less safe rail cars will continue to be used. I also ask that you quickly implement strict classification guidelines to ensure proper handling of Bakken crude.  Recent recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on crude transport should be strongly considered as you develop any new rules.

The increasing development of domestic crude sources makes timely development of safety measures critical. According to the Association of American Railroads, this traffic has increased 400 percent nationwide in the last decade. I urge you to use your authority to ensure the safety of all communities affected by this development.

Thank you for your consideration.  I appreciate your continuing commitment to safety, and look forward to continuing to work with you on this issue.

Sincerely,

Rick Larsen
Member of Congress
Washington State, 2nd District