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Will New U.S. Regulations on Rail Shipments of Oil Prevent More Explosions?

A week after a train loaded with crude oil from North Dakota exploded in downtown Lynchburg, Va., dumping 30,000 gallons of oil into the James River, the Department of Transportation announced two moves to try to keep this from happening so frequently. It's doubtful that either will make much of a difference in preventing what's become a major safety hazard in the U.S.

Will New U.S. Regulations on Rail Shipments of Oil Prevent More Explosions?

Under a new ďemergency order,Ē the DOT said itís now going to require any railroad that ships a large amount of crude to tell state emergency responders what itís up to. That includes telling them how much crude itís hauling and the exact route it intends to take. Railroads also now have to provide local emergency responders with contact information of at least one person whoís familiar with the load, in case, you know the local fire chief needs to find out what the heckís inside that overturned tank car that just unleashed a 400-foot fireball.

This emergency order applies to any train carrying more than 1 million gallons of crude specifically from the Bakken region of North Dakota. Thatís essentially all the trains hauling crude across the U.S. right now. Since there arenít enough pipelines connecting the oil fields in North Dakota, most of the nearly 1 million barrels the state produces leaves every day by train. It takes about 35 tank cars to haul 1 million gallons. Most of these oil trains are 100 cars long and stretch over a mile.

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