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Owens praises American and Canadian rail safety recommendations

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A collaborative set of American and Canadian safety recommendations for moving hazardous material by train is a “promising step forward,” according to Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

The three-part guidance from the National Transportation Safety Board and Transportation Safety Board of Canada called for railroads and carriers to plan routes for carrying hazardous materials to avoid populated areas, develop response capabilities in case all products carried on their trains spill and audit themselves to ensure proper classification of hazardous materials.

The recommendations, issued Thursday, follow a series of incidents in places including Illinois, North Dakota, Alabama, Alberta and Quebec that caused widespread damage. The recommendations were issued jointly due to the large number of trains traveling across the border of the two countries.

The incidents involved the DOT-111 train car, a type of rail car commonly used across the north country and continent to transport crude oil and other hazardous materials. During the recent accidents, the car model has had issues with puncturing and leaks from its bottom side. The DOT-111 cars are used on both the CSX Rail Inc. and Canadian Pacific rail lines traveling through the northern part of the state.

Mr. Owens said he was going to review the recommendations with fellow lawmakers.

“As we seek energy independence, we must make sure we are taking common sense steps to protect communities near railroads where trains carry crude oil,” Mr. Owens said in a statement. “We can find a sensible way to protect the public and the environment that allows businesses using our rail infrastructure to expand and create jobs.”

The recent safety issues are even more worrisome in light of data from the Association of American Railroad that shows crude oil shipments by rail have increased more than 400 percent nationwide since 2005.

“The large-scale shipment of crude oil by rail simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality,” said board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “While this energy boom is good for business, the people and the environment along rail corridors must be protected from harm.”

Industry and federal Department of Transportation officials will spend about a month determining short-term solutions to improve railroad safety.

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