WASHINGTON Feb 26 U.S. lawmakers are expected
to question regulators and rail industry officials on Wednesday
about several recent fiery derailments, focusing on whether
shipments from energy producing regions such as North Dakota's
Bakken area are being handled safely.
A subcommittee of the House of Representatives'
Transportation Committee will hear from the officials with the
rail and oil sectors as well as U.S. Department of
Transportation officials who are responsible for safe shipments.
"We need to understand what government agencies and
transportation stakeholders are doing to ensure safety on the
system," said Rep. Jeff Denham, a California Republican who will
convene the panel.
One area of concern has been how fuel is handled as it moves
from fields to refiners and whether hazardous material rules
account for pressure that can build during such deliveries.
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 expect a test for pressure and some
lawmakers and Congressional staff say that is a blind spot in
the regulations that should be addressed.
"The pressure and volatility of these shipments have not
been getting enough attention," said Rep. Rick Larsen, whose
district in Washington state is home to a Tesoro Corp
refinery that routinely receives shipments of oil from the
Bakken region on railcars.
In March, a Tesoro executive reported that its refinery in
Anacortes, Washington, was seeing pressures climb on its Bakken
rail shipments. (for full report see:)
Officials did not test vapor pressure on crude oil samples
that led to fines against Hess Corp, Marathon Oil Corp
and Whiting Petroleum Corp early this month.
The companies were later cited for wrongly classifying cargo
tanks hauling fuel from the field to a railhead in October, and
a DOT official said tank car pressure was now being scrutinized
"This market is evolving fast, and people are demanding that
we get clear answers on the dangers," said Larsen, who has heard
from communities along the oil-by-rail route in his district.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 2pm EST (1900 GMT).
Among those scheduled to speak are Joseph Szabo, head of the
Federal Railroad Administration and Cynthia Quarterman,
administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration, both arms of the Department of Transportation.
Also on the bill are Jack Gerard, president of the American
Petroleum Institute, and Edward Hamberger, president of the
Association of American Railroads.