Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec in 2013.

Transportation officials order oil trains to slow in urban areas

WASHINGTON (AP) — An emergency order requiring trains hauling crude oil and other flammable liquids to slow down as they pass through urban areas and a series of other steps to improve the safety were announced Friday by the Department of Transportation.

The Obama administration has been under intense pressure from members of Congress as well as state and local officials to ensure the safety of oil trains that traverse the country after leaving the Bakken region of North Dakota. To get to refineries on the East and West coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, oil shipments travel through more than 400 counties, including major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Newark and dozens of other cities.


Oil train disaster factored into FEMA planning

The Wall Street Journal

The Federal Emergency Management Agency used a fictional oil train derailment in the New York area to help local firefighters and others prepare for disaster when they staged an exercise last month, The Wall Street Journal reports.

BP Photo

Interior proposes rule to boost blowout preventer standards offshore

Nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Interior Department on Monday proposed a long-awaited rule to improve well control at offshore oil and gas drilling sites by improving standards for blowout preventers, the equipment that failed during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.

The proposal would enforce use of the latest industry standard for blowout preventers, including double-shear rams used to more effectively cut and seal pipes during blowouts; boost third-party oversight of the equipment; and require real-time monitoring of offshore drilling operations.

The proposed rule would also aim to improve well control through tougher cementing guidelines for wells and the use of centralization technology to maintain well structure.

“These well-control regulations seek to better protect human lives and the environment from offshore oil spills by comprehensively addressing the full range of systems, equipment and processes involved in well-control operations," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters on a call.

Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure photo

Newsmaker: Leave oil tanker safety to regulators, former PHMSA chief says

Even as crude oil train derailments stay in the headlines, lawmakers eager to push bills to boost crude-by-rail safety ought to step back and let federal agencies do their job, a former administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says.

“I think the federal agencies that are responsible for hazardous material safety have about all the authority and tools they need to have,” Brigham McCown told EnergyGuardian in an interview.

“They would be more effective, frankly, if Congress would leave them alone and allow them to be the regulators. They’re the experts, not the Hill," he added.


Mexico: Death toll now 20 in gasoline tanker truck explosion

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities say the number of dead from a recent gasoline truck blast has reached 20 after two more people succumbed to injuries sustained in the explosion.

Prosecutors in the southern Gulf coast state of Tabasco say a 24-year-old woman and a 29-year old man are the latest victims.


NTSB: Oil train tank cars need urgent upgrades

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Fuel-hauling tank cars need retrofits to prevent more explosive train wrecks — and the public can't wait another decade for the improvements as has been suggested by industry, U.S. safety officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a series of recommendations Monday after a spate of fiery accidents revealed shortcomings in voluntary industry standards for cars hauling oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids.


NTSB seeks 'aggressive schedule' to improve oil-by-rail safety


The National Transportation Safety Board is asking the rail industry to move more quickly - on an "aggressive schedule" - to come up with safer oil tankers and find other ways to make oil-by-rail less dangerous, Reuters reports.


Death toll rises to 18 in gas tanker explosion

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The death toll in a gasoline truck explosion in southern Mexico has risen to 18 with the death of a 38-year-old woman.

The explosion occurred in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco on March 26 when villagers tried to take gasoline from a tanker truck that had crashed.


Pemex begins to restore production at fire-damaged platform

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's state-run oil company continues to search for three missing workers from a platform fireball that killed four others, while beginning to restore production at the damaged Gulf of Mexico facility, officials said Sunday.

Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, will start processing 170,000 barrels of crude by Monday and expects to restore 80 percent of the pre-fire production in the coming week, said Gustavo Hernandez, general director of exploration and production.


Death toll in Mexico gasoline tanker blast rises to 17

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The death toll from a March 26 gasoline tanker truck explosion in southern Mexico has risen to 17 after more victims died of burn injuries at hospitals.

The explosion occurred in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco when villagers tried to take gasoline from a tanker truck that had crashed.


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