New Railroad Regulations Proposed in Wake of Bakken Train Derailment

The railroad lobby has been hard at work trying to prevent new government regulations from being enacted in the wake of several high-profile train derailments. In October, an Amtrak train carrying 238 came off the tracks and killed eight people. But it isn't just passenger train safety driving concern from government officials. Many of them are worried about the increase in rail tank cars carrying flammable material.

Seven years ago, there were an estimated 9,500 tank cars carrying flammable material. By 2014, that number increased to 493,126. The swelling ranks of flammable tankers is mostly due to the Bakken oil boom, which increased domestic production of oil leaps and bounds past where it was just ten years ago.

In 2013, a train carrying Bakken oil derailed in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people and demolishing 75 buildings. The severity of the disaster was a driving force in the introduction of Positive Train Control (PTC), an automatic breaking system that federal regulators have called "the single-most important rail safety development in more than a century." The proposed technological requirement is touted as the most effective way to avoid potential accidents, reduce work injury for crew members, and improve railroad safety overall.

Opponents say the regulations are expensive and unnecessary. Rep. John Duncan Jr.of Tennessee stated:

“Now, everybody has tremendous sympathy for those families that lost loved ones in the Amtrak accident but, my goodness, now we’re going to be spending billions to make something that already is one of the safest things in the entire world (safer)?”

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