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Senator wants fast action on rail safety

| Thursday, March 6, 2014, 9:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Government regulators are taking too long to write rail safety regulations in light of recent fiery oil train accidents and a deadly commuter train derailment, senators complained on Thursday.

Railroads are taking too long to implement safety improvements Congress ordered under legislation passed seven years ago, lawmakers said at a hearing before the Senate's surface transportation panel.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the panel's chairman, said he is “disappointed and disturbed by some of the delays and failures in rule-making and scrutiny.”

“One of the things we're going to do here is impose accountability,” he said.

Cynthia Quarterman, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, said her agency is working as fast as possible to draft standards for tank cars used to transport crude. She said it takes time to address the more than 100,000 public comments the agency has received, as well as fulfill other requirements of the federal rule-making process.

The cars, known as DOT-111s, were involved in explosions and fires caused by derailments of oil trains near Casselton, N.D., in December and Lac-Megantic, Quebec, just across the Canadian border, in July.

On Feb. 13, 21 cars of a 130-car Norfolk Southern freight train derailed along First Avenue in Vandergrift, including one tanker car that careened into a building. No one was injured and none of the 18 tankers containing heavy crude oil or a tanker containing liquefied petroleum gas (butane) burst into flames or exploded during the derailment.

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