Baldwin introduces oil train safety legislation

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

March 26, 2015

A train carrying crude oil crosses West Avenue on the south side of Waukesha on Monday.    
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and several other senators introduced legislation to help increase safety standards for trains hauling volatile crude oil in an effort to better protect Americans and the communities in which they live and work located near railroad tracks.

Baldwin partnered with Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Dianne Feinstein, D-California, on Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015.

“As more and more volatile crude oil moves through Wisconsin and through our country via rail it is critical that appropriate safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of deadly accidents,” Baldwin said in a statement.

“I’m proud to join Senators Cantwell, Feinstein and Murray in introducing legislation that takes immediate action to phase out the most dangerous tank cars carrying crude oil through our communities and I am hopeful our colleagues in the Senate will join us to prevent future oil train tragedies from occurring as we work to increase safety and efficiency along America’s railways.”

According to Wednesday’s announcement, the bill would require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to draft new regulations for mitigating volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt use of older-model tank cars shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments.

Concern has increased nationally and internationally as several instances of trains carrying oil have exploded, including in Quebec and North Dakota. Many communities in Wisconsin have railroad tracks cutting through them, such as Waukesha and Oconomowoc.

“Every new derailment increases the urgency with which we need to act,” Cantwell, ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

“Communities in Washington state and across the nation see hundreds of these oil tank cars pass through each week. This legislation will help reduce the risk of explosion in accidents, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and ensure first responders have the equipment they need.”

Baldwin sent a letter to President Barack Obama earlier this month, urging his administration to take “immediate action and issue final guidance to address oil train safety,” according to the announcement.

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