We’re happy to read recently that the federal Department of Transportation is continuing to require that railroad companies report to state emergency service agencies the numbers of unit trains carrying Bakken crude.

One of the weaknesses in the recent federal rules regarding the transportation of flammable liquids by rail was a backsliding in the reporting requirements. The new rules, approved this spring, would have only required railroads to provide a “point of contact” for emergency officials.

A year ago, the feds passed an emergency rule requiring that railroads report on the routes and number of unit trains carrying flammable liquids to the state emergency officials.

Now, according to recent news reports, we are up to two or more fully loaded crude oil trains per day. That means more risk of spills or accidents-the latest occurring in Culbertson, Mont. Fortunately, while the train spilled 35,000 gallons of crude, it didn’t explode or catch on fire like so many other derailments.

In other good news (yes, in this context, just an oil spill is relatively good news), Republicans in Congress have backed away from recent efforts to roll back portions of  the already weak new federal rules. They apparently wanted to eliminate the rule requiring state-of-the-art braking systems on the highly flammable trains.

Why would anyone want to make trains less safe?

Meanwhile, the wheels of bureaucracy continue to turn toward permitting new oil transport terminals on the West Coast, and rumors persist that Congress is looking at lifting the export ban on oil. If those things occur, we could see as many as 100 loaded oil trains a week-according to Sightline Institute’s research.

Stay informed and check our Take Action page for opportunities to help us put the brakes on additional crude oil trains and to make existing rail traffic safer!