Big Oil battles tougher rules for transporting crude
BISMARCK, N.D. — The oil industry pushed back on Tuesday against tougher rules for rail cars carrying crude that were spurred by a string of fiery wrecks. It asserted in a new report that oil from the Northern Plains is no more dangerous than some other cargoes.
But the results of the industry-funded study differ from the stance of the federal government, which issued a safety alert in January warning the public, emergency responders and shippers about the potential high volatility of crude from the Bakken oil patch.
The oil from North Dakota and Montana is comparable to other light crudes, with characteristics that fall well within the margin of safety for the current tank car fleet, the industry study says.
Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said the study proves federal rules “are sufficient.”
But a former senior federal railway safety official disagreed and said recent crashes are enough to justify government intervention.
“We already have examples of this particular crude going ‘boom,' ” said Grady Cothen, former deputy associate administrator for safety at the Federal Railroad Administration. “That's how it has to be treated from a regulatory standpoint despite the distinctions being made” by oil companies.
Oil trains in the United States and Canada were involved in at least eight major accidents during the last year, including an explosion of Bakken crude in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that killed 47 people. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have since derailed and caught fire in Alabama, North Dakota, New Brunswick and Virginia.
Regulators in response have discouraged shippers from using older tank cars known to rupture during accidents.
The Department of Transportation issued the January safety alert about Bakken crude, which is produced from a huge oil shale reserve that has propelled North Dakota to the nation's second-largest oil producer behind Texas.
The North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies working in the oil fields of North Dakota and Montana, commissioned the $400,000 study of Bakken crude characteristics. The group said more than 150 oil samples were taken from well sites and rail facilities throughout North Dakota and Montana, and sent to independent laboratories for analyses. The results will be shared with federal regulators this month, the group said.
Last week, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a lobbying group for oil refiners, found Bakken crude is no more risky or flammable to ship than other oils, if hauled correctly under current federal rules.
A Department of Transportation spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the industry data even as it continues analyzing samples of Bakken oil gathered by regulators. Results of the government's testing have not been released.
Mile-long trains pulling more than 100 cars laden with Bakken crude began running in 2008 when the state first reached its shipping capacity with existing pipelines and infrastructure. More than $2 billion has been spent on infrastructure and nearly two dozen rail-oil loading facilities have been built in North Dakota in recent years to move Bakken crude to locations as varied as Washington state, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Brunswick, Canada.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Murder charges dropped against sergeant who shot 2 unarmed Iraqi boys
- First Ebola case in U.S. confirmed in Dallas
- Dallas hospital confirms 1st Ebola case in U.S.
- Secret Service chief endures blistering glare of Congress’ questions over White House breach
- New York City mayor boosts city’s living wage to $13.13
- Feds say $100M in data hacked
- Medical marijuana use to get court test in Colo.
- Pentagon review puts Gitmo transfers on ice
- Panel says Wis. lawmaker likely broke House rules by advocating for companies in which he owned stock
- California becomes 1st state to ban plastic bags
- FCC backs end to NFL broadcast blackouts