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5/4/2015  Energy Quote Of The Day: Putting A Brake On Crude By Rail


Energy Quote of the Day: Putting a Brake on Crude By Rail

on May 04, 2015 at 3:00 PM
Railroad tanker cars sit outside of the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Railroad tanker cars sit outside of the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Obama administration late last week put out a final safety rule on moving flammable liquids by rail, a subject of concern with the growth in crude by rail. Critiques were plentiful on the high-stakes issue.

From the green side, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) blasted the new regs, done in concert with Canada, as “more of a status quo rule.”

On the industry side, there was one particular point that really stuck in their craw – a requirement that oil trains come with electronically controlled pneumatic brakes by 2021 or 2023, depending on the type of train. Trains without ECP brakes, which the government says can slow a train significantly better than standard compressed air brakes, will be held to a 30 mph speed limit. The Association of American Railroads was outraged and predicted calamity.

“This decision not only threatens the operational management of the U.S. rail system, but trains moving 30 mph will compromise network capacity by at least 30 percent,”said Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO, in a statement. “The far-reaching effects of this decision will be felt by freight and passenger customers alike. Slow-moving trains will back up the entire rail system. Attention and resources should be allocated to addressing the underlying causes of rail accidents and brakes simply aren’t on that list.”

Six to eight years might seem like a long time to get these brake jobs done. But a representative of the Railway Supply Institute, a rail industry equipment association, told theWall Street Journal just two companies in the U.S. supply such brakes and some 125,000 tank cars would need them.

The government wasn’t buying it.

Sarah Feinberg, the acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, told theNew York Times: “The mission of the F.R.A. is safety and not focusing on what is convenient or inexpensive or provides the most cost savings for the rail industry. When I focus on safety, I land on E.C.P. It’s a very black-and-white issue for me.”