Tuesday, July 01, 2014

CBR obstacles vary, but multiply

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CBR obstacles vary, but multiply Bruce Kelly

Pushback against crude-by-rail (CBR) oil shipments continues to develop in a variety of ways, from local protests to looming action from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

BNSF Railway already has noted it will protest any decision to limit CBR trains to 30 mph top speeds. BNSF has said it would need to divert $2.8 billion in capital funding, which it calls an "unfunded investment mandate," to compensate for difficulties resulting in a 30 mph restriction on CBR trains.

Last May DOT ordered real-time reporting by railroads on movements of Bakken crude involving trains hauling more than one million gallons (approximately 35 tank cars) of oil. 

But public protests appear likely to continue. A June 30, 2014 report by The Oregonian noted a dozen protesters came to an industrial section of Northwest Portland , Ore., early Monday morning to protest the use of oil and crude oil transport, with one woman strapping herself to a concrete-filled barrel labeled, "No Oil Is Safe." The barrel was located on tracks owned by a crude-oil transport company.

Though such direct trespassing incidents are not yet common, concern over CBR movements is becoming more acute in several western U.S. states at the local, state, and even federal levels.

Oregon's two U.S. Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkeley (both Democrats), have urged the federal Department of Transportation to expand its emergency order issued last May to include all crude oil shipped by rail, not just that linked to the Bakken formation in North Dakota.

Nor are concerns limited to the U.S. West. Residents in and around Albany, N.Y., have expressed concern for increased CBR traffic through the New York State capital, by some estimates now handling up to 25% of production from the Bakken.

Also in the East, Norfolk Southern early last week had indicated that it would require NS customers to give NS legal protection against damages caused by explosions or leakage carried in DOT-111 tank cars, often used for CBR moves. NS rescinded its proposal late last week.

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