Environment America
Anna Aurilio

On the heels of the Obama administration’s announcement to impose new regulations for oil trains traveling across the U.S., Environment America’s Washington, D.C. office director Anna Aurilio released the following statement:

“Environment America applauds the Obama administration for acknowledging the threat posed by oil train traffic across the nation. That said, the new regulations announced last week provide only one small piece of the solution to the oil train puzzle.

A far-reaching, multi-faceted challenge like the threat of oil trains will require a holistic approach and comprehensive game plan to fully protect the public, first responders, our natural resources and our communities.

While addressing rail car technology is critical, it fails to solve much bigger problems with the nation’s current approach to oil trains. The Obama administration and our other elected officials --- local, state, and federal -- must do more to truly avert the danger of oil train traffic in America.

Thus Environment America calls on state and federal officials to implement the following policies as soon as possible:

  • Improve access to information about trains coming through communities – for first responders, government officials, and the public. This must include when, how much oil they’re transporting, and access to “worst case” scenario emergency response plans in order to be prepared;
  • Further reduce the reporting threshold for oil train traffic to 5,000 gallons or more; fire departments and first responders often lack the capacity to properly respond to an explosion caused by more than 9,000-10,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil. 
  • Immediately re-route oil trains away from all of the nation’s densely populated areas and communities;
  • Increase inspections and oversight of oil trains to ensure these trains are operating safely—currently less than 1% of the nation’s rail infrastructure is properly inspected. This must include mandatory, stiff penalties for violations found on oil trains—we must send a clear message that oil trains violating laws and putting communities at risk will not be tolerated;
  • Ensure train companies are paying the true cost of shipping dangerous oil across the nation, including adequate insurance to cover the cost of an oil train disaster, first responder plans and resources, and paying appropriate safety violation fines;
  • Improve and updating America’s ailing rail infrastructure; and
  • Move swiftly and boldly to reduce the nation’s dependence on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and instead put the country on track to the 100% renewable energy future we deserve.

Our research has shown, millions of American and communities across the country are at risk. We owe it to them to take all the steps necessary to protect their health, and avoid the next catastrophic oil train accident.