March 03, 2015

Manchin: 'We've got to make it safer' | Register Herald

“I have no qualms asking for a full-fledged [Senate committee] investigation,” he said, about the Powellton Hollow derailment, where 27 tankers hauling Bakken crude oil went off the rails Feb. 16. Currently, various federal agencies are conducting investigations.

On Saturday, the Federal Railroad Administration started inspecting all the damaged tankers, recovering wreckage from the accident site, fully reviewing maintenance and inspecting records for rolling stock, signals and locomotives, said Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the FRA.

The Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration will examine the crude oil products for gas content, volatility and compliance with federal hazardous material regulations and classification.

On Sunday afternoon, the Unified Command for the West Virginia Derailment Response team said approximately 152,000 gallons of oil were recovered directly from tank cars.

During the half-hour conference call, Manchin continually mentioned the 3,300 percent increase in crude oil rail traffic. “It’s not going away,” he said of the increase.

However, he said, one way to reduce the traffic is to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,179-mile pipeline that is designed to carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil daily and cut across a number of states.

Manchin said the pipeline, if ever built, is a safer way to transport oil than the alternatives — trains or tanker trucks.
The Keystone XL pipeline, he said, is the “most environmentally friendly way to transport” oil, as it takes several hundred thousand barrels off the road and tracks daily. The pipeline is “a win-win,” he said.

President Obama has promised to veto any legislation concerning the pipeline.

West Virginia is one of about 30 states that allows trains hauling highly toxic and explosive materials to pass through its cities and towns without informing the public or first-responders when those materials are traveling through, various reports state.

Railroads are required by federal law to inform state emergency officials when a train hauling Bakken crude is traveling though; however, railroad companies, including CSX, have argued successfully in many states that the information is proprietary.

West Virginia officials responded to an AP Freedom of Information request last year by releasing documents redacted to remove nearly all details.

The state has no plans to consider changing its public disclosure policy after the Powellton Hollow derailment, said Melissa Cross, a program manager for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Manchin said changing the policy is up to state officials. “That is a policy decision for the governor and Legislature.”

After a follow-up question about whether homeowners have a right to know what is passing through their backyards, Manchin replied he understands both sides of the debate — routes of hazardous material cannot be disclosed for safety reasons, but also citizens and communities have the right to know what is going through their town.

“That’s a tough one,” he said.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., reiterated her belief Monday that after the federal investigations in the cause of the derailment, leaders must fully consider viable options for preventing similar situations from occurring again.

“In the meantime,” she said, “I will remain in contact with federal, state and local officials to ensure a full recovery.”

Meanwhile, West Virginia American Water said restoring water to thousands of customers is taking much longer than usual because of widespread water main breaks caused by the frigid weather.