Hoeven: DOT Has To Finalize Oil Rail Car Regulations Faster


“New regulations requiring stronger rail cars for carrying oil will be finalized in 2015, according to a schedule released Tuesday by the Department of Transportation,” reports The Hill.

In a press release responding to the announcement, Senator John Hoeven says that’s not fast enough:

“The DOT today indicated it will not finalize rules governing the construction of new rail tanker cars until sometime after January 2015. We are concerned that unless DOT provides guidance sooner, the timeline will be too long for industry to transition to newer, safer tanker cars in a timely way. We initially asked for expedited rules in December 2012, and now we are learning that the finalized rule won’t be ready for another year. Industry needs regulatory certainty to make the investments necessary to move forward.

“This week, we will meet with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and industry leaders to try to determine what and when sufficient guidance will be available prior to the finalized rule so that industry can begin to transition as soon as possible. Also, I will be speaking with Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell, who reviews the proposed rule prior to its release, to see if it can be provided to the public sooner. The federal agencies working on this issue need to devote the necessary resources to get it done in a timely way. In addition, we are evaluating legislation to further advance the timeline, as well.”

This is a hot topic in North Dakota because of the Casselton train derailment, of course, and the preliminary NTSB report on that accident found that the biggest problem was that 18 of the 20 oil cars that derailed were compromised. Meaning they leaked oil, which then exploded.

Better rail cares less prone to puncture in derailment might have stopped over 400,000 gallons of leaked oil, and massive explosions which, if they’d happened in a more populated area, probably would have come with a body count.

It’s hard to imagine what the delay is in instituting these regulations given the Obama administration’s regulatory zeal in other areas. Frankly, I still don’t think it’s all that unreasonable to see the Obama administration’s strong political ties to Warren Buffett, who in turn has strong financial ties to the rail industry, as a motivating factor.