In the wake of several recent rail disasters, lawmakers in Wisconsin and Minnesota are calling for new measures to improve oil train safety.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Ron Kind on Monday sent a letter urging President Barack Obama to impose new rules governing trains hauling volatile crude oil, like one that exploded after derailing near Galena, Ill.
The Department of Transportation has proposed new rules, including new tank car standards, better classification for liquid petroleum products, route risk assessment planning for railroads and reduced speed limits for oil trains.
But the White House did not act by the Jan. 15 statutory deadline to release final rules. Kind and Baldwin asked the president to issue the final rules — with additional safety measures.
“It is time for you to take action,” the Wisconsin Democrats wrote in their letter to Obama. “We believe that recent accidents make clear the need for rules stronger than those originally proposed.”
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They requested rules that would require shippers to stabilize oil — by taking out explosive gases like propane and butane — before it is transported as well as stricter safety standards for the tank cars that haul it.
Two recent derailments — in Galena and in West Virginia — involved cars built to the new safety standards proposed by the DOT.
Kind and Baldwin also called for lower speed limits and enhanced braking on trains carrying flammable materials and for increased transparency about the shipment of oil.
In Minnesota, two state lawmakers plan to unveil an oil train safety initiative Tuesday.
House Deputy Minority Leader Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, and Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, are proposing rail crossing enhancements along with a plan to make railroads pay for public safety improvements.