Various industry groups and environmentalists continue to fight over pending federal oil train safety standards. Meanwhile, cities and states are devising their own rules.
Energy companies have turned largely to US railways to move oil from the fields to market. The increase in supply has outgrown the pipeline capacity of the country. Even though there have been several high profile oil train derailments in recent years, the federal government continues to fight with various groups over setting national standards.
Supporters of new rules think that the new regulations will protect towns from dangerous oil spills and fires. Critics are concerned that new rules could derail the booming energy sector of the US economy.
In Nebraska, the state government has decided to make public all information on oil shipments by rail. North Dakota is considering more restrictions to make its Bakken crude less explosive. Chicago is mulling a new fee on rail cars that run through the city.
The lack of enough pipeline infrastructure in the US is a particular problem in North Dakota, which provides one of eight barrels of crude in the US. That is why the state is thinking about new rules that would make the oil more stable before it is shipped. But the oil industry is fighting the new standards.
It seems that given the problem of oil train derailments, such as the one in Virginia in April 2014 in Lynchburg, more focus needs to be made on safety. We have seen the results of a lack of train safety in Virginia in our work on several train accidents over the years. There always needs to be a sufficient balance of safety and profit in any rail business, and if not, tragedy can unfold.