U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday urged the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Energy to finalize volatility standards for crude oil before it's shipped by rail.
His request follows the release of new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing that the amount of crude oil moving by rail to U.S. Northeast refineries is growing. In March, refineries in the region used about 3.1 million barrels of oil, which is the most used since early 2017, according to a press release issued by Schumer's office.
Schumer asked the federal departments to collaborate on a plan that would require oil companies to stabilize highly flammable Bakken crude oil prior to transport by rail. A 2014 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration report found that Bakken crude oil was more volatile than other types of crude, which correlates to increased flammability.
"When it comes to crude, one of the most powerful things we could do would be to set a good standard for the stability of what's actually inside the tank cars," Schumer said. "Stabilization technology is not a new concept, and has previously been used in oil fields in other regions of the country and the world."
Schumer's request also comes one month ahead of the fifth anniversary of the rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which left 47 people dead. In July 2013, an unattended freight train carrying Bakken crude oil rolled into Lac-Megantic's downtown and derailed, which led to an explosion.
Since the disaster, North Dakota passed a law that requires oil to be stabilized to at least 13.7 pounds per square inch. However, oil in the Lac-Megantic disaster likely would have met this new standard, Schumer said, adding that the departments of transportation and energy must create a new standard that goes further.
In April 2017, Schumer made a similar plea to stabilize crude oil before its shipped by rail.