U.S. issues new rules requiring rail oil spill response plans

FILE PHOTO: A crude oil train moves past the loading rack at the Eighty-Eight Oil LLC’s transloading facility in Ft. Laramie, Wyoming July 15, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department on Thursday issued final rules requiring railroads to develop oil spill response plans and to disclose details of shipments to states and tribal governments after a series of high-profile incidents.

The department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said the rules, first proposed in July 2016, would “improve oil spill response readiness and mitigate effects of rail accidents and incidents involving petroleum oil and high-hazard flammable trains.”

The new regulation “is necessary due to expansion in U.S. energy production having led to significant challenges for the country’s transportation system,” the agency added.

The new rules apply to High Hazard Flammable Trains transporting petroleum oil in a block of 20 or more loaded tank cars and trains that have a total of 35 loaded petroleum oil tank cars. They require railroads to establish geographic response zones and ensure that personnel and equipment are staged and prepared to respond in the event of an accident.

The new rules take affect in August and come after regulators reviewed more than a dozen oil car derailments from 2013 through 2016.

The rules partially address recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board after a 2013 crude-by-rail derailment killed 47 people in the town of Lac Megantic in Quebec and released 1.6 million gallons of crude oil.

“This new rule will make the transport of energy products by railroad safer,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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