ND Sen. Hoeven says Transportation Department timeline on new rules for rail tankers too long

WASHINGTON – The Department of Transportation needs to speed up its timeline for finalizing new rules on the construction of rail tanker cars, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said Wednesday.

Hoeven’s comments came after an item published in the federal register indicated that new rules for tankers might not be finalized until sometime after January 2015. The timeline was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Hoeven said he and other North Dakota officials had initially asked for expedited rules in Dec. 2012 and that “industry needs regulatory certainty.”

“We are concerned that unless DOT provides guidance sooner, the timelines will be too long for industry to transition to newer, safer tanker cars in a timely way,” Hoeven said.

Hoeven’s office said the Transportation Department had already reached out to him promising a clarification soon on its timeline.

An item published in the federal register on Tuesday indicated that the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Administration’s schedule for making rules on improving or phasing out tanker cars is not scheduled to end until Jan. 2015. The agency oversees the transportation of hazardous materials, including oil.

PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx met with Hoeven, a Republican, and his Democratic colleague, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp last week to discuss tanker issues. That meeting came in the aftermath of a fiery derailment near Casselton, N.D., earlier this month. No one was hurt, but residents were evacuated from a town that narrowly missed impact from the blast, and the crash prompted new questions about the safety of oil transportation.

The Casselton derailment came after recent crashes in Alabama and Canada, all underscoring safety concerns associated with oil transportation.