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U.S. DOT: Stronger Rail Cars Must Be in Place By 2020

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier
A train derailed in Fayette County near the Kanawha County line in early February. The rain was carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota.

After several accidents involving trains carrying crude oil in the past few years, including one in southern West Virginia, the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced new rules to make rail shipping safer.

The new rules apply to rail shipments of flammable and hazardous materials, like crude oil and ethanol. 

They include phasing out some of the most widely used rail cars in the industry, like the CPC 1232s involved in the February derailment in Fayette County. That crash resulted in a massive fire that evacuated dozens of people from their homes.

Cars like CPC 1232s must be retrofitted by 2017 or phased out of use by 2020. Manufacturers are also required to begin producing new cars with thicker steel walls and thermal jackets to prevent punctures and fires.

USDOT Secreatary Anthony Foxx at the announcement of new rules for train cars Friday.

“One of the challenges with this rule, quite frankly, is that we’re dealing with prospective risk,” U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said at the press conference releasing the strengthened regulations, “an industry that continues to grow, a use of transportation that continues to expand and the fact that we’ve got to think ahead of the problem.”

“So, this rule is recognizing that we’ve got a growing risk and its attempting to put some brackets around that risk and reduce the risk to the public.”

The rules also require trains carrying flammable liquids at more than 30 miles per hour be equipped with specialty breaks and those traveling through densely populated areas slow to 40 miles per hour.

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.

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