Wyden, Merkley Statement on Transportation Department Oil Trains Rule

Washington, D.C. – Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today released the following statement after the Department of Transportation issued a final rule to address the safety of shipping oil-by-rail:

“After years of our urging, the Department of Transportation’s rule includes meaningful steps on rail safety, but does not do enough, or move quickly enough to secure Oregon communities from the risks of flammable oil trains. Instead of providing first responders more details about oil shipments, railroads will simply be required to give our firefighters a phone number. It is disappointing the department has not expanded the amount of public information about oil train routes, despite numerous calls to do so. First responders need more information about dangerous materials moving through their communities, and we will continue to push to meet that need.

“More needs to be done to improve the safety of communities along rail routes and expand transparency about when and where oil trains are traveling in Oregon. The bill we introduced yesterday provides a market-based approach to get unsafe cars off the tracks and safer cars on the tracks as quickly as possible. Our approach will mean communities won’t have to wait for years to see safer cars on the tracks, as the Transportation Department proposal calls for. We will continue to push the department to maximize the safety of Oregonians,” Wyden and Merkley said. 

The senators yesterday introduced the Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2015 to reduce risks to communities near railroad tracks by speeding up the phase-out of older tank cars and encouraging rail companies to replace them with newer, safer cars. 

The bill also would require the Department of Transportation to implement recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to give first responders real-time information on rail transportation, update track maintenance standards and study first responder preparedness for rail accidents involving large amounts of flammable liquids.