Effective immediately, those who offer crude oil for transportation by rail must ensure that the product is properly tested and classified in accordance with federal safety regulations. The Emergency Order also requires that all Class III crude oil shipments be designated as Packing Group I or II (the most volatile), thereby requiring the use of a “more robust” tank car, such as those built since October 2011 to the AAR’s voluntary industry safety standard, CPC-1232. Packing Group III, a lower risk designation, will not be accepted, until further notice, DOT said.
“Shippers are required to use nine hazard classes as a guide to properly classify their hazardous materials,” DOT said. “Proper classification will ensure that the material is placed in the proper package and that the risk is accurately communicated to emergency responders. Shipping crude oil—or any hazardous material—without proper testing and classification could result in material being shipped in containers that are not designed to safely store it, or could lead first responders to follow the wrong protocol when responding to a spill.”
“Emergency orders are issued to protect the public and environment from the likelihood of substantial harm created by an imminent hazard,” DOT said. “Today’s Emergency Order, the fourth from DOT in less than a year, was issued in response to recent derailments involving trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken region and out of concerns over proper classification that are currently under investigation as part of Operation Classification, also known as the ‘Bakken Blitz.’” In addition to Operation Classification, which includes crude oil spot inspections and investigations, PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration) will be in Minot, N.Dak. this week conducting a classification workshop. Field personnel will present training at the 60th Annual State Fire School sponsored by the North Dakota Firefighters Association to provide information about hazmat response, including how to use the Emergency Response Guidebook.
PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration have issued several safety advisories related to the safe transport of crude oil by rail, including a Jan. 2 Safety Alert, and are currently engaged in the ongoing rulemaking to improve the design of the DOT 111 tank car. In August 2013, PHMSA and FRA launched Operation Classification in the Bakken region to verify that crude oil was being properly classified and announced the first proposed fines associated with that ongoing investigation last month. Additional activities include unannounced spot inspections, data collection and sampling at strategic locations that service crude oil.
The rail industry is moving ahead on improved tank car safety, without waiting for a DOT rulemaking. BNSF on Feb. 20 announced an RFP for 5,000 new tank cars built to standards stronger than CPC-1232.