| WASHINGTON, April 2
WASHINGTON, April 2 U.S. transportation
officials and leaders of the oil industry are mulling whether
standards for testing crude must be updated in light of several
The American Petroleum Institute, the leading voice for the
sector, has convened industry experts to develop new testing
standards in a move that could help regulators, a senior
Department of Transportation official said on Wednesday.
"They have come forward to put together a working group to
look at the classification," said Cynthia Quarterman who
oversees oil-by-rail shipments as head of the DOT's Pipeline and
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
"We appreciate that assistance," she told lawmakers at a
hearing on hazardous material rules.
Jack Gerard, the API president, has said the review is due
to finish in the next several months.
Existing hazardous material rules envision a test for the
initial boiling point of crude oil and the liquid's flash point,
or the temperature at which it will combust with a spark.
But the rules do not require a test for pressure and some
lawmakers and Congressional staff say that is a blind spot in
the regulations that should be addressed.
Emergency-responders, too, are concerned since hazardous
materials under pressure can pose a higher risk, said Elizabeth
Harman, an official with the International Association of Fire
"For us, we need to understand the material in that
container whether on the road or on the rail," she said after
the hearing. "I need to know the vapor pressure, the
While Quarterman thanked the industry for some cooperation,
she faulted API for not sharing data about past oil-by-rail
shipments out of North Dakota's Bakken energy patch.
Quarterman said the trade group "has not supplied any data
with respect to the characteristics of the crude and one would
think that they would know."
API said this week that it is intent on aiding officials who
want answers about the kinds of oil-by-rail cargo shipments that
have recently derailed and led to dramatic explosions.
Most notably a 74-car runaway train carrying crude oil from
North Dakota's Bakken region detonated in Lac-Megantic, Quebec,
last July, killing 47 people.
Several lawmakers said that they expect the industry to
share what it knows about the kinds of shipments now under
"I've pushed both industry and the Department of
Transportation to work together on this," said Senator Heidi
Heidkamp whose home state of North Dakota is nearing 1 million
barrels per day of production with roughly 72 percent of that
moving on the tracks.
"If one side isn't holding up its end of the bargain, that's
a serious problem," she said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Selam Gebrekidan in New York; editing
by Andrew Hay)