With a series of recent train derailments and explosions in the U.S., local officials have expressed concern on the matter to increase safety measures to avoid similar tragedies.
Because trains that carry Bakken crude oil to various parts of California are transported through Turlock on the Union Pacific Railroad that runs through the center of town and the Santa Fe Avenue railroad, the situation has become an area of concern for many residents.
During a recent Turlock City Council meeting, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Material, was present and stated that something must be done to ensure railway safety.
Calling for new federal standards that demand the safest tank cars and newest safety technology available, Denham has convened numerous congressional rail safety hearings, and is pushing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to finish the process of a finalized tank car rule.
“I will continue to pressure them for standards that will allow American companies to immediately start building safer tank cars,” said Denham.
Additionally, a slew of U.S. Senators chimed in expressing safety concerns in relation to the transportation of Bakken crude oil and other energy products.
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called on the Senate Appropriations Committee in a letter, to support a Safe Transportation of Energy Products program with investments to address rising safety concerns related to the transportation of Bakken crude oil and other energy products.
The program would provide additional crude oil route safety managers, inspectors and tank car specialists at FRA, special agents at FMCSA to provide additional oversight of energy product transportation, more training, safety equipment and outreach through PHMSA.
Along with additional personnel and resources, the Local Rail Facilities and Safety Program would provide infrastructure improvements to facilities handling tank cars, particularly to small stations.
Attributing the increases in crude-by-rail transportation in the last eight years to increases in energy development, the Senators called for increased funding for crude-by-rail safety efforts conducted by related federal agencies.
“Communities stretching across our country from the Midwest to coastal ports and refineries are rightly concerned about the safe movement of these combustible products,” said the Senators in their letter.
Today, over 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day are transported across railroads nationally.
These developments come as welcome news to Turlock residents as Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman recently expressed concern over rail safety, stating that if such disaster were to occur, the City would lack the resources to manage it.