Railroads and energy companies agreed Thursday to make voluntary saftey changes in shipping crude oil, US federal regulators said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation oversaw meetings of executives from the railroads and the industry group American Petroleum Institute.
Crude oil hasn’t traditionally been handled as potentially explosive. But the new light Bakken crude from North Dakota is unusually volatile because it holds high levels of butane and propane.
Last month a crude train derailed and exploded near Casselton, N.D. There were no injuries but most of the town’s 2,300 were forced to evacuate while a toxic cloud spread over the area.
In July, a derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town.
In November, a train hauling Bakken crude from North Dakota derailed and exploded in Alabama, spilling more than 700,000 gallons of oil from 26 tanker cars. No one was killed in that accident.
Last week, a crude train derailed in northwestern New Brunswick, Canada and erupted in a fireball that forced the evacuation of about 60 people in the sparsely populated area.
Many of the crude trains run through cities such as Denver and New Orleans, which are worried about mass disasters impacting large population centers.
“Anthony Foxx, secretary of the Transportation Department, said the railroads agreed to take steps to avoid derailments and reroute trains around high-risk areas. They have 30 days to study the routing protocols applied to the most hazardous loads they carry, he said,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
New recommendations for tank cars are going to be developed within 30 days by the energy and railroads.
Representatives from the Department of Transportation and the American Petroleum Institute will decide how to classify Bakken crude oil and how it should be handled by the railroads.