Environmental Groups Sue, Charge Oil Train Safety Rules Inadequate

By | May 18, 2015

Seven environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging safety rules issued earlier this month for trains carrying oil, arguing the regulations are too weak to protect the public.

The groups, including the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity, charge that the rules, issued on May 1, will allow industry to continue to use “unsafe tank cars” for up to 10 years and fail to set adequate speed limits for oil trains.

“We’re suing the administration because these rules won’t protect the 25 million Americans living in the oil train blast zone,” said Todd Paglia, executive director for ForestEthics, one of the groups bringing the lawsuit.

The United States and Canada issued the safety standards in response to the string of explosive accidents that have accompanied a surge in crude-by-rail shipments.

Under the rules, tank cars built before October 2011 known as DOT-111 will be phased out within three years. DOT-111 tank cars are considered prone to puncture during accidents, increasing the risk of fire and explosions.

Tank cars without reinforced hulls built after October 2011 and known as CPC-1232 will be phased out by 2020.

In their filing, the green groups asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to force the Transportation Department to reconsider the “unduly long phase-out period” for these tank cars, as well as the speed limit and public notification requirements in the rule.

While environmentalists have argued the phase-out for the tank cars is too long, energy and rail groups have raised concerns that the time allotted to switch over tank cars is not feasible.

The American Petroleum Institute filed a lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that challenges the timetable for retrofitting rail cars and requirements for electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

The new regulations are expected to cost an estimated $2.5 billion to implement over the next two decades, two-thirds of that to retrofit or retire existing tank cars, according to estimates contained in the rules.

The case is Sierra Club, et al v. Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, No. 15-71461.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe)

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