Letter to US DOT: Stabilize Bakken Crude Oil

Anthony Foxx
Timothy P. Butters
Acting Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590 Secretary Foxx and Acting Administrator Butters, The incident in West Virginia on Feb. 16 is the latest in a series of serious derailments involving Bakken crude oil being transported by rail. The pressing need for stronger safety measures to prevent these disasters is now more than apparent. I am writing to urge the Department of Transportation to immediately implement safety precautions to protect communities from the risk of volatile crude oil transportation. We cannot afford to wait until May to regulate the construction and use of new tank cars alone. The issue does not rest solely in updating and replacing tank cars. In the recent West Virginia incident, all the tank cars involved were in fact the newer CPC 1232 models, and yet we still had this tragedy. Though I am aware that newer safety requirements on the tankers will be proposed, all indications have shown that these new requirements will be phased in over many years, while we continue to have these explosive accidents. Clearly, we need safety measures that not only govern tank cars and tracks, but also require the stabilization of Bakken crude oil. Stabilizing crude oil separates volatile natural gas liquids (NGLs) from the crude, making the oil safer to handle and transport. Currently, Bakken crude oil is simply “conditioned,” which removes only a fraction of the volatile NGLs that make crude so flammable. Conditioning crude oil is not enough – the dangers of transporting highly flammable, volatile crude across the country are too great. Oil producers in Texas have already been efficiently stabilizing crude oil and North Dakota’s oil producers should follow suit. The derailment in West Virginia set at least 14 tank cars ablaze, forced the evacuation of two towns, destroyed a home, and may have leaked crude into the neighboring water supply. The trains that transport volatile Bakken crude travel across the country; and a similar derailment in a densely populated area would have even more catastrophic results. The eastern-most border along the Hudson River in the 110th Assembly District is densely populated with residential homes. Since the train tracks run right through the center of these communities, in effect dividing them in half, an explosive event of this nature would decimate the towns, cities and villages that are along these tracks. Protecting the safety of our communities should be a top priority, and allowing the transport of volatile crude is simply too dangerous. I look forward to your response on this important matter. If you would like to discuss this issue further, please feel free to contact me at 518-455-5931 or via email at steckp@assembly.state.ny.us. Sincerely,
Phil Steck
Member of New York State Assembly
110th District