Groups Bring New Legal Action for Federal Ban of Dangerous Oil Tank Rail Cars

Federal agency refuses to act on hazardous rail cars carrying explosive Bakken crude


Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084


Eddie Scher, ForestEthics, (415) 815-7027


Mark Westlund, Sierra Club, (415) 977-5719

Today, Earthjustice on behalf of Sierra Club and ForestEthics challenged the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) denial in November of the groups’ petition for an immediate ban on the most hazardous DOT-111 rail tank cars carrying explosive Bakken crude oil. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 2012 called for an immediate ban on using these tank cars to ship crude oil because they are prone to puncture, spills, and fires in train accidents. Two in three tank cars used to transport crude oil in the U.S. are DOT-111s, yet the DOT has taken no action beyond issuing a safety advisory urging shippers to use the safest tank cars in their fleets to the extent feasible. The legal action today challenges the DOT’s assertion that they have done enough to respond to the imminent hazards posed by oil trains.

The groups issued the following statements:

Said Patti Goldman, Earthjustice attorney: “Most of the explosive crude oil on US rails is moving in tanker cars that are almost guaranteed to fail in an accident. The risks are too great to keep shipping explosive Bakken crude in defective DOT-111s. The NTSB called them unsafe two decades ago, and by the DOT’s own estimates, the US could see 15 rail accidents every year involving these cars until we get them off the tracks. We can’t afford to wait for another Lac Mégantic, Quebec-type catastrophe to happen here.”

Said Devorah Ancel, Sierra Club attorney: “The oil industry wants to double the number of tanker cars moving crude oil on US tracks before removing any of these antiquated cars. And the Department of Transportation is playing along, allowing industry up to six years to get these cars off the tracks. That’s too long to wait for a recall of these dangerous tank cars.”

Said Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme oil campaign director: “More than 25 million Americans live within a mile of a railroad track that could be hauling explosive crude oil, and towns and emergency responders across the country are calling for action. The administration’s draft regulations are too little and far too late. We are challenging the administration to ensure that the oil industry, railroads, and the federal government do not wait to take these dangerous tanker cars off the rails.”



Crude by Rail California
A train with DOT-111 tanker cars. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

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