Rail­road in fiery de­rail­ment agrees to changes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BILLINGS, Mont:

The na­tion’s largest freight rail­road has agreed to more thor­ough in­spec­tions and main­te­nance im­prove­ments af­ter a fiery oil train de­rail­ment in Ore­gon and the dis­cov­ery of more than 800 po­ten­tial safety vi­o­la­tions across its sprawl­ing net­work.

De­tails on the agree­ment be­tween the Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Union Pa­cific were ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press. Six­teen tank cars from a Union Pa­cific train haul­ing crude through the Columbia River Gorge de­railed in early June along a curve in the tracks near Mosier, Ore­gon. The accident sparked a mas­sive fire that burned for 14 hours and prompted the evac­u­a­tion of nearby ar­eas. No one was in­jured. But fed­eral of­fi­cials said the rail­road wasn’t fol­low­ing its own main­te­nance rules to en­sure the track was safe. Better in­spec­tions would have caught a se­ries of bro­ken bolts that al­lowed the rails to move too far apart where the accident oc­curred, of­fi­cials said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the accident is con­tin­u­ing. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Union Pa­cific Rail­road did not have an im­me­di­ate com­ment on the agree­ment. The more than 800 po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions against Union Pa­cific were found as part of a two-year ex­am­i­na­tion of tracks across the US used to haul crude, fed­eral of­fi­cials said. En­force­ment ac­tions against the com­pany have not been fi­nal­ized and fur­ther de­tails on the vi­o­la­tions were not im­me­di­ately avail­able. Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tor Sarah Fein­berg said the agree­ment raises the bar on safety. “This com­pli­ance agree­ment re­quires Union Pa­cific to go above and be­yond ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions,” she said. The oil in­dus­try has be­come heav­ily re­liant on trains in re­cent years be­cause of lim­ited pipe­line ca­pac­ity in the boom­ing oil patch of the North­ern Plains and the oil sands re­gion of west­ern Canada. Omaha, Ne­brask­abased Union Pa­cific op­er­ates more than 32,000 miles of track across 23 states.

The safety mea­sures in­cluded in the agree­ment with the FRA will ap­ply to all track used to haul oil and other haz­ardous liq­uids, pas­sen­gers, ex­plo­sives, ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als and poi­sonous gases. They in­clude an in­ven­tory of all curves in the track that are three de­grees or greater across that net­work and walk­ing in­spec­tions ev­ery 120 days on tracks that have the type of bolts in­volved in the Mosier accident. Those in­spec­tions have to oc­cur ev­ery 30 days in that part of the net­work that in­cludes the Mosier area.

Pre­vi­ously, Union Pa­cific said it would vol­un­tar­ily take some of the same steps within the Columbia River Gorge. At least 27 oil trains have been in­volved in ma­jor de­rail­ments, fires or oil spills in the United States and Canada in the past decade, ac­cord­ing to an AP anal­y­sis of accident records. The trains travel through more than 400 coun­ties across the US to reach re­finer­ies on the West, East and Gulf coasts, ac­cord­ing to the AP anal­y­sis. A 2013 de­rail­ment killed 47 peo­ple when a run­away oil train from North Dakota jumped the tracks and ex­ploded in Lac-Me­gan­tic, Que­bec. Dam­age from that accident has been es­ti­mated at $1.2 bil­lion or higher. —AP

This June 4, 2016, file aerial photo, pro­vided by the Wash­ing­ton State De­part­ment of Ecol­ogy, shows scat­tered and burned oil tank cars af­ter a train de­railed and burned near Mosier, Ore. —AP

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