WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 25, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — This week, Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), and 35 of their House Democratic colleagues asked Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ranking Member David Price (D-NC) to support funding that ensures safe transportation of energy products, including the shipment of Bakken crude oil.
Trains involved in shipping the volatile substance have been involved in several derailments as well as one deadly explosion in Quebec, taking the lives of 47 individuals. President Obama’s proposed budget funds the expansion of existing safety, inspection and research programs throughout the Department of Transportation (DOT), including several agencies with direct jurisdiction over the movement of energy products throughout the country.
The letter reads, in part:
“Despite pending administrative rulemaking to improve rail safety, Congress must provide adequate resources to keep our energy transport systems safe and secure. Americans living near oil train routes and terminals need to have confidence that we are making these investments to mitigate safety risks. We thank you for your consideration of this critical funding and look forward to working with you to ensure the Department of Transportation has the necessary resources to support the safe transport of energy products across the nation.”
A copy of the letter is attached and copied below along with the signatures of 37 Members of Congress.
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Dear Chairman Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member Price:
As you begin consideration of the Fiscal Year 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we urge you to support funding to ensure the safe shipment of energy products. The President’s budget request includes resources to expand existing safety, inspection and research programs throughout the Department of Transportation (DOT), including within the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.
Since the recent boom in crude oil production from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, which now produces over one million barrels per day, energy products have increasingly traveledby train and truck to refineries around the county. The crude-by-rail industry has grown from virtually nonexistent before 2009 to over 400,000 carloads in 2013. Early estimates for 2014 indicate that this trend has continued, transforming many unexpected cities and towns into hubs for energy transportation. According to a recent study by the Center for Biological Diversity, “An estimated 25 million Americans live within the one-mile evacuation zone recommended by the U.S. Department of Transportation in the event of an oil train derailment,” raising concerns by rural and urban communities throughout the country.
We were once again reminded of the potential dangers posed by crude-by-rail accidents when more than twenty tank cars derailed near Mount Carbon, West Virginia alongside the Kanawha River last month. The accident resulted in a fire that burned for days, the evacuation of hundreds of nearby residents and the temporary closure of intake valves for two local water treatment plants. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for Kanawha and Fayette counties. This is only the latest in a number of incidents in recent years that have led to oil spills, fires, evacuations, destruction of property and, in the tragic case of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, loss of life.
It is clear that DOT requires additional funding to promote public safety, prepare first responders, and inspect tracks and shipment packaging to protect communities from future incidents involving energy products. The President’s budget request recognizes the need for additional resources in a multi-modal approach by requesting funding for the following programs:
· FRA’s Safety and Operations account request of $204 million, an increase of nearly $17 million from Fiscal Year 2015 enacted levels, would be used to hire 45 new staff, continue automated track inspections of crude routes and train employees of short line railroads involved in energy product shipping, among other rail safety priorities.
· FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Operations and Programs request includes $2 million for the enhancement of safe transportation of energy products.
· PHMSA’s Emergency Preparedness Grants request of $28 million would assist first responders engaged in reducing the risks of incidents involving the transport of hazardous materials.
· PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Safety account request of $64 million includes $4.4 million for additional inspection and enforcement personnel to continue hazardous materials inspection activities and $1.7 million for training and outreach to ensure shippers and carriers are taking all the required precautions to transport these products safely.
· The Office of the Secretary’s funding request includes an additional $5 million dedicated to the safe transportation of energy products. This funding would support the oversight and coordination of multi-modal prevention and response.
Despite pending administrative rulemaking to improve rail safety, Congress must provide adequate resources to keep our energy transport systems safe and secure. Americans living near oil train routes and terminals need to have confidence that we are making these investments to mitigate safety risks. We thank you for your consideration of this critical funding and look forward to working with you to ensure the Department of Transportation has the necessary resources to support the safe transport of energy products across the nation.