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PNS Daily Newscast - September 24 


Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a two-fold problem.

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Oil-by-Rail Safety Bill in Congress

PHOTO: Four oil-train derailments and explosions in a single month (Feb.) prompted two U.S. Senators to introduce legislation outlining major oil shipment safety improvements. Photo of the Fayette County derailment courtesy Office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
PHOTO: Four oil-train derailments and explosions in a single month (Feb.) prompted two U.S. Senators to introduce legislation outlining major oil shipment safety improvements. Photo of the Fayette County derailment courtesy Office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
March 26, 2015

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – On Wednesday, senators introduced a bill in Congress to improve safety of oil shipments by rail.

The legislation, from two senators from Washington state, would require thicker tank-car walls and safety features, and set limits on how volatile crude oil can be for rail transport. It also would add more rail inspections and a system for reporting close calls. The bill comes after last month's derailment and explosion in Fayette County and other similar events.

Rebecca Ponzio, oil campaign director for the Washington Environmental Council, says efforts to urge industries to make changes haven't been sufficient.

"We need safety improvements right now," said Ponzio. "We've seen the results of the accidents, the derailments - it's just not good enough to say this is going to happen voluntarily. It needs to be required."

In response to the new legislation, the American Petroleum Institute said more than 99 percent of crude oil is shipped by rail without a problem.

Most of the cars that carry crude are owned not by the rail companies, but by shippers and the oil and gas industry. The U.S. Department of Transportation is working on updated standards for tank-car safety that it says won't be ready until mid-May.

In the meantime, Ponzio says any set of effective safety rules includes better informing the public.

"It includes public-disclosure requirements – the community has a right to know what is going through our state. It includes financial responsibility, requiring the companies that carry the oil through our state are on the hook in case of a spill."

Last month, a train with more than 100 rail cars filled with crude oil derailed near Mount Carbon in Fayette County. The massive explosions that followed forced the evacuation of 1,000 people.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV