On January 23, 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board issued three recommendations to the Department of Transportation to address the safety risk of transporting crude oil by rail. The recommendations align closely with the comments submitted by Sierra Club on the issue.
The NTSB is concerned that major loss of life, property damage and environmental consequences can occur when large volumes of crude oil or other flammable liquids are transported on a single train involved in an accident, as seen in the Lac Megantic, Quebec, accident, the derailment in Casselton, ND, and the derailment in Cherry Valley, IL. In 2013, more oil spilled from trains than has spilled in the past 4 decades.
The first recommendation to the Department of Transportation would require expanded hazardous materials route planning for railroads to avoid populated and other sensitive areas. The second recommendation is to develop an audit program to ensure rail carriers that carry petroleum products have adequate response capabilities to address worst-case discharges in the event of a catastrophic spill. The third recommendation is to audit shippers and rail carriers to ensure that they are properly classifying hazardous materials in transportation and that they have adequate safety and security plans in place.