March 24, 2015

Manchin Urges Senate Appropriations Committee to Invest in Safety Efforts for Crude-By-Rail

Washington, D.C. – Following the February 16 train derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, Senator Manchin has closely reviewed ways to improve the safety of transporting Bakken crude oil and other energy products along our nation’s railroads. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined 21 other Senators in sending a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee supporting robust funding for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products Program, which would improve coordination and investment across the various U.S. Department of Transportation agencies that oversee these activities. These agencies include the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Substances Administration (PHMSA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“The rail system in the United States has seen a massive increase in crude-by-rail since 2007, driven in large part by remarkable increases in energy development,” the Senators wrote. “In light of several tragic accidents involving crude-by-rail trains – including the most recent derailments and explosions of tanker cars carrying crude oil in West Virginia and Illinois – communities stretching across our country from the Midwest to coastal ports and refineries are rightly concerned about the safe movement of these combustible products.”

The Safe Transportation of Energy Products Program is intended to provide the U.S. Department of Transportation with the necessary resources to address current and emerging safety issues related to transporting combustible energy products like Bakken Crude. The funding would include requiring additional crude oil route safety managers, inspectors and tank car specialists at FRA; special agents at FMCSA to run extensive oversight of energy product transportation; and additional safety equipment, training, and outreach through PHMSA. Along with these personnel and resource additions, the Local Rail Facilities and Safety Program would provide critical infrastructure improvements to facilities handling tank cars, particularly to small stations.

In 2009, less than 11,000 carloads of oil were transported by rail. By the first quarter of 2013, nearly 100,000 carloads of oil were transported by rail. The transportation of crude oil and other energy resources has increased over that period of time by 3,300 percent. Today, more than 1.1 million barrels per day move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest, yet there have been four fiery derailments involving oil trains in North America since the start of February.

To read the full text of the bill, please visit Senator Manchin’s website here.

Senator Manchin was joined by Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Maria Cantwell, Heidi Heitkamp, Dick Durbin, Tammy Baldwin, Ron Wyden, Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Jeff Merkley, Patrick Leahy, Jon Tester, Richard Blumenthal, Robert Menendez, Bernie Sanders, Chris Coons, Angus King, and Ben Cardin.