By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON Feb 25 U.S. regulators issued an
emergency order on Tuesday requiring oil from North Dakota being
loaded onto trains to be tested and properly labeled to reflect
its volatile nature after a series of explosive train
derailments over the past year.
U.S. Department of Transportation warned last month that
fuel produced out of the North Dakota's Bakken region could be
more flammable and explosion-prone than previously thought.
"If you intend to move crude oil by rail, then you must test
and classify the material appropriately," Department of
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
Hazardous material rules still permit any crude oil to be
carried on older DOT-111 tank cars that make up the majority of
the crude-by-rail fleet. Regulators say that older DOT-111s,
which have been involved in recent derailments, are prone to
puncture during accidents.
Officials have acknowledged that improvements are needed to
the national tank car fleet and they are considering new safety
standards, but improved tank car standards were not addressed in
The order states that all crude oil shipments must be
labeled in Packing Group 1 or 2, not the less strict Group 3,
the DOT said.
On Wednesday, DOT officials will join oil and rail
executives at a Congressional hearing to discuss safe shipments,
following accidents including a derailment in July in the
Canadian town of Lac Megantic that killed 47. That mishap and
two more fiery derailments of oil-by-rail from the Bakken have
sparked more regulatory scrutiny.
Following the Canadian rail disaster, the DOT began an
operation it dubbed "Bakken Blitz," which includes spot
inspection of oil shipments aboard trains in North Dakota.
Earlier this month, the DOT said it had fined three oil
companies for wrongly classifying crude shipments from the
While shippers have always been required to attest to their
cargo, industry officials have said testing of Bakken crude has
been lax. U.S. refiners have raised issues about the sampling of
crude oil being delivered from the Bakken.
Phillips 66, the nation's third-largest refiner that
moves inland crude via rail to its New Jersey refinery and aims
to do the same at its Washington state refinery late this year,
said the company already labels all crude shipments as Packing
Group 1, the designation for the most dangerous cargoes.
Also, all crude tank cars bound for Phillips 66 plants are
inspected at each loading and unloading facility to ensure
compliant shipments, spokeswoman Monica Silva said.