Senators: Gov’t Too Slow To Write Safety Rules

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Government regulators are taking too long to write new rail safety regulations in light of recent fiery oil train accidents and a deadly commuter train derailment, frustrated senators said Thursday.

Railroads are also taking too long implement safety improvements Congress ordered under legislation passed seven years ago, lawmakers complained at a hearing of the Senate’s surface transportation panel.

“One of the things we’re going to do here is impose accountability,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., warned government and industry witnesses.

Cynthia Quarterman, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, said her agency is working as fast as possible to draft new standards for tank cars used to transport crude oil. She said that it takes time to address the more than 100,000 public comments the agency has received.

The cars, known as DOT-111s, were involved in explosions and fires following derailments of oil trains near Casselton, N.D., in December and Lac-Megantic, Quebec, just across the U.S. border, in July. Forty-seven people were killed in Lac-Megantic and much of the town center destroyed. The North Dakota accident occurred a half mile from Casselton, causing the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.

American Petroleum Institute Prentiss Searles said the oil industry isn’t convinced standards need to be toughened beyond voluntary industry standards some cars already meet.

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