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Congressman Garamendi & Congresswoman Lowey Respond to New Study on Crude Oil Combustibility, Calls for Immediate Crude Oil-by-Rail Volatility Safety Standard

July 10, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation announced that they are collaborating with Sandia National Laboratories to prepare a comprehensive Crude Oil Characteristics Research Sampling, Analysis and Experiment Plan. The plan will include further study on the best ways to sample, test, and identify crude oil’s combustion risk. It is expected to take 18 months.


Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), who served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department under President Clinton, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland, NY), the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, today responded to the announcement by urging immediate federal action to keep communities safer in the transportation of Bakken crude oil-by-rail. Specifically, they believe a strong nationwide standard is needed to reduce the volatility of crude oil transported by rail. Representatives Garamendi and Lowey are the coauthors of H.R. 2379, a bill that would require all oil transported across state lines by rail to maintain a Reid vapor pressure level no greater than 8.5 psi.


Their statements are below.


Congressman Garamendi:


“I’m glad to see the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation partnered with Sandia National Laboratories to thoroughly study the best and safest methods to gauge the combustion risk of Bakken crude oil.


“They say their study will be completed in 18 months. In the meantime, trains with extremely high crude oil volatility continue to travel through my district and in communities across the country, including through routes near concentrated populations and schools.


“Everyone knows that volatile gases explode. Any reduction in the volatility of gas content makes these tank cars less dangerous. We should immediately require that oil companies lower the volatility of crude oil transported across state lines.


“That’s why I continue to work with Representative Nita Lowey, the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, to give H.R. 2379, our legislation to create a nationwide volatility standard, a fair hearing in Congress. The oil companies have the technology and can afford the cost. Our communities cannot afford a crude oil explosion. As it stands, we are playing Russian roulette on rail for oil company profits.


“I’m a firm believer in the best science, and I’m happy to see this research move forward. However, we’ve already seen major explosions in West Virginia, Illinois, and Quebec. Dozens of people have lost their lives in recent years. We don’t need to wait 18 months for action to keep our communities safe. We need strong volatility standards today.”


Congresswoman Lowey:


“Crude oil shipped on trains poses great danger to homes, schools, and businesses near our nation’s extensive railways. I’m pleased that federal agencies have endeavored to provide a deeper understanding of the science behind reducing crude oil volatility, and I urge officials to work expeditiously. However until we can mitigate the risk of tragic explosions, the House must advance our bill to prohibit interstate shipment of high-volatility crude oil via rail and set a national volatility standard. We must give peace of mind to Americans living with crude oil trains rumbling through their backyards.”