WASHINGTON, D.C. — The head of the federal Department of Transportation vows new rules are coming which will tighten up on the safe transportation of crude oil as well as other combustible materials across the United States.  Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Wednesday.

“The reduction on the final rule, not only on these tank cars, but on a range of issues that affect the safety of the transport of this material is critical,” said Fox during questioning from U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va).

The Department of Transportation is formulating new rules for hauling crude on the railroad as well as along the highways.  The changes come amid two recent derailments. One was in Illinois, the other was the February derailment and explosion in Fayette County, W.Va.  Nobody was hurt in the massive explosion and fire, but one house was destroyed and there was potential for catastrophic damage and loss of life.

Capito, who has advocated the construction of pipelines across the country, questioned Foxx as to whether those would be a safer alternative to rail transport of crude oil from the Dakota region.

“We’re agnostics when it comes to how this stuff moves. Our main point is that however it’s moving, whether it’s by truck or by rail  or by pipeline that it’s moving safely,” Foxx said. “I will say however, that pipelines are not immune to spills and accidents. We will continue to work to insure that every modality that is used to move this material is safe modality.”

Foxx noted as they crafted the new rules which are being reviewed by the federal Office of Management and Budget, they changes cover a range of materials and not crude oil specifically.  He used ethanol as an example of one material in the same class as crude oil.

Capito believed the crude oil which exploded and burned in Fayette County should be in a class by itself or should at least get a higher level of attention from safety regulators.

“I would ask if there’s any way we could higher prioritize that,” Capito said. “It’s a newer material and we’ve been hauling ethanol for a long time on our rail systems and roads.  I think this is a bi-partisan issue in terms of the urgency we feel.”

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