Rep. Lipinski Reacts to Oil Train Safety Proposals (July 24, 2014)

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a plan designed to improve the safety of oil trains as they travel through communities across the country.  The proposed rules include steps to remove older rail cars, adjustments to speed limits, and additional precautions for transporting substances that are especially volatile. 

“As a representative of a district at the center of America’s rail network and a member of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee, I have been a strong advocate of keeping our rail communities as safe as possible,” said Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3).  “This plan is definitely a step in the right direction.  In a year that is on pace to see a record number of oil train incidents, it is imperative for the safety of the American people and the future of this essential industry that the Department of Transportation expedites the implementation of these safety proposals.  It is my hope than in the coming months and years more proactive steps will be taken on this critical issue, including more support for my efforts to improve first responder training on these rail cars.”

Rep. Lipinski has mailed a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the Chief Administrator for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), asking them to move forward with the PHMSA’s on-going electronic manifests pilot program, so that first responders will have quick access to accurate information about the hazardous contents of rail cars when an accident occurs.

“Given the safety issues surrounding the transportation of crude oil by rail, it is important that the PHMSA work on an accelerated schedule to make sure all options and technologies are deployable for use by first responders,” stated Lipinski.  “One issue of concern is providing first responders with access to cargo manifests so that they can determine the proper response strategy.  Presently, paper manifests are the only form of documentation that must be carried by hazardous material transporters.  While we emphasize the point that paper manifests are a critical item for first responders in dead zones and that under no uncertain terms should they be phased out or eliminated, we believe that electronic manifests should be implemented as a supplemental information resource for first responders.  This technology can allow them to determine the contents of a tank car quickly and without having to board a locomotive to search for a paper manifest that may have been compromised.”

Congressman Lipinski is the senior member from Illinois on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.