U.S. oil train safety proposal due in May

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Transportation Department will offer a new design for oil trains by mid-May as officials try to make sure crude oil is moving safely on the tracks, officials said this week.
A cross section from a damaged oil tanker car is shown from the wreckage of the derailment and fire that occured near Casselton, N.D., on Dec.30, 2014. New tankers will have a thicker shell. Forum file photo
A cross section from a damaged oil tanker car is shown from the wreckage of the derailment and fire that occured near Casselton, N.D., on Dec.30, 2014. New tankers will have a thicker shell. Forum file photo

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Transportation Department will offer a new design for oil trains by mid-May as officials try to make sure crude oil is moving safely on the tracks, officials said this week.

The next-generation tanker will have a thicker shell, more heat protection and other safety features meant to prevent future mishaps from becoming fiery derailments. Details have not been finalized.

"These new requirements are designed to lessen the consequences of derailments involving ethanol, crude oil, and certain trains transporting a large volume of flammable materials," the Transportation Department said in a memo this week outlining future regulatory actions.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is weighing costs and benefits of a draft proposal that has drawn more than 3,800 public comments.

The Office of Management and Budget, which gives federal proposals a final review, is due to make the report public by May 12.

One hurdle for U.S. officials is harmonizing safety standards with Canada, since the trade partners strive for similar standards.

Reuters reported this week that Canada is seeking a more aggressive schedule for mothballing older tank cars than the United States envisions.