Approximately 70% of the oil produced in North Dakota is transported by rail. Safety concerns mounted after an incident where two BNSF operated trains carrying Bakken crude collided and derailed near Casselton, ND, in late December 2013. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said about 400,000 gallons or ~950 bbls of oil were spilled. Now, Senators from across the country are appealing to the Senate Appropriations Committee for railway safety funding this month.
In early April of this year, North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, called on fellow members to support railway safety measures and a push for more rail inspectors. Specifically, Hoeven would like to see funding go to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
In January of this year, PHMSA issued a safety alert for Bakken crude due. The alert reinforced the need to test, characterize, classify, and where appropriate de-gassify the crude oil before transportation. PHMSA is also working on new regulations for double hulled tankers.
On a related note, several U.S. Senators appealed to the Senate Appropriations Committee in Washington D.C. for rail safety funding in a joint-letter on April 4th. The letter was signed by 16 U.S. Senators, and highlighted the "Safe Transportation of Energy Products Fund".
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing will take place this week, Wednesday, April 9th, to examine the level of federal resources that should be allotted for railway safety. North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp will be in attendance at the hearing to ask questions of the scheduled witnesses.