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Legal Challenge Brought Over Oil Train Safety Rules

The new federal Transportation Department safety rules for oil shipments by rail are being challenged in court with the petitioners saying they don't go far enough. Credit: Kirby Urner/Flickr.
The new federal Transportation Department safety rules for oil shipments by rail are being challenged in court with the petitioners saying they don't go far enough. Credit: Kirby Urner/Flickr.
June 18, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa – A legal challenge has been mounted against the U.S. Department of Transportation, claiming proposed new agency rules don't do enough to protect Iowans and others across the country who live along oil train routes.

The environmental lawfirm Earthjustice is representing the groups that filed the administrative appeal. Attorney Kristen Boyles says a problem is the recently-announced standards for tank cars have a phase-in time which the organizations believe extends too far into the future.

"This allows inadequate, explosive oil trains to stay on the rails for another 10 years," says Boyles. "That's a huge problem for anybody who lives anywhere near a railroad, or has a town where rail lines go through."

Boyles says another reason for the challenge is the organizations aren't convinced the proposed rules do enough to ensure emergency responders know when trains are coming through their area – or what's on them.

"We believe there should be more information, not less, so people can be prepared for what looks like the inevitability of more explosions and oil spills," she says.

Rail companies have said releasing more route and cargo details could compromise national security, and let competitors know too much about their business.

As of this spring, it's estimated between 20 and 30 oil trains cross Iowa state each week, each carrying at least one million gallons of volatile crude oil.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA