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Congressman Mark DeSaulnier

Representing the 11th District of California

DeSaulnier, Lowey, Garamendi Crude-By-Rail Measure Passes House With Unanimous Support

December 3, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC –  A measure to improve the safety of crude oil rail shipments across the nation, introduced by Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-17),  and Congressman John Garamendi (CA-3), was passed in the House by unanimous consent and included as part of the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 8). It requires the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study the maximum level of volatility that is safe for transporting crude oil-by-rail within one year. Since 2008, oil traffic has increased over 5,000 percent along rail routes leading from production zones in the central continent to refineries and hubs along the coast.

“Crude oil production is at record levels, and railroads are moving more crude oil than ever. For over 25 years, I have represented areas in Contra Costa County which include four oil refineries and two destination facilities for oil-by-rail. This initiative is a first step in addressing concerns of communities, like those in my district, that face threats of environmental degradation, injury, and loss of life due to the unsafe handling of volatile oil in our railroad system,” said Congressman DeSaulnier.

“No one should have to live with dangerously explosive materials rumbling through their backyards. With dozens of tank cars carrying crude oil through Rockland County communities each week, it’s more important than ever to improve safety for homes, schools, and businesses near the tracks. That’s why I introduced this amendment with Representatives DeSaulnier and Garamendi to require the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study the maximum level of volatility that is safe for transporting crude oil by rail. As Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to ensure Americans living near railways are safe from crude oil accidents,” said Congresswoman Lowey.

“Oil train traffic has increased by 5,000 percent in the last eight years to accommodate the surge in oil and gas production from inland production zones like the Bakken Shale,” said Congressman Garamendi. “But more train traffic means more risk of derailments: the Department of Transportation estimates that we will have 14 oil train derailments per year between 2015 and 2020. This is especially dangerous because Bakken and other shale crude is extremely volatile and extremely toxic: in 2013, an oil train carrying Bakken Crude exploded near Lac Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. That’s not something I want to have happen in the 3rd District of California, and that’s why we need a national volatility standard for oil-by-rail traffic.”

This amendment requires DOE to determine the acceptable volatility for the safe transportation of oil-by-rail. Highly volatile crude oil, such as Bakken, has been said to closely resemble jet fuel with flammable vapors that can catch on fire in a crash.

Crude oil trains crashes in North Dakota, Illinois, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and other states have forced evacuations and caused extensive environmental contamination.