On July 15, 2014, Sierra Club filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting that the agency issue an emergency order prohibiting the use of DOT-111 rail tank cars for transporting flammable Bakken and other volatile fracked crudes. The National Transportation Safety Board has repeatedly found that DOT-111 tank cars are prone to puncture on impact, spilling oil and often triggering destructive fires and explosions. The U.S. Department of Transportation itself has found that rail transport of Bakken crude poses an "imminent hazard" to public health and safety, yet it has failed to take meaningful action that requires the industry to eliminate those risks. To date, the agency has simply urged shippers to use the safest tank cars in their fleets. Canada already has banned the use of the oldest DOT-111s on the tracks.
Although the agency began a rulemaking process to set new safety standards for crude oil rail cars, that process is moving too slowly and could drag on a year or more before a final rule is implemented. A one year delay in improved safety standards, is one year too long.In addition to severe accidents causing loss of life and thousands of evacuations, in the last year alone our nation saw more oil spill from tank cars than has spilled in the past four decades. An immediate ban on the use of DOT-111 tank cars to ship Bakken crude, as the petition requests, would reduce the risk of punctures and oil spills by over 75 percent, according to rail industry estimates.
The recent surge in U.S. oil production, much of it from Bakken shale, has led to a more than 4,000 percent increase in crude oil shipped by rail since 2005, mostly in long oil trains with as many as 120 cars and over 1.5 miles long. Huge increases in the number of crude trains traveling through communities have mobilized towns across the country to oppose this hazardous activity and call for a national emergency ban on all DOT-111 tank cars.