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State lawmakers lobby for federal oil by rail law

Delaware Public Media

A group of 30 mostly Democratic state lawmakers sent a letter to Delaware’s congressional delegation airing their concerns about the increasing number of trains carrying crude oil throughout the First State. 

The group of representatives and senators led by Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark) and Senate Majority Leader David McBride (D-Hawks Nest) are calling for Congressman John Carney and Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons to support a new bill boosting oil-by-rail safety measures.

Introduced in Congress earlier this month, the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act would ban certain tank cars considered unsafe for shipping oil and mandate new tank car shells be thicker, as well as other safety features.

It would also stiffen fines on railroads that skirt hazardous material laws and create new penalties for companies that don't follow safety guidelines

The letter says the 100,000 gallons of oil shipped to the Delaware City Refinery every day and more passing through the state are important to the economy.

It says, “What is needed are reasonable regulations that ensure that the railroads and oil companies are supplying and transporting a safe, stable product, and our rail lines are capable of safely delivering the cargo.”

Another federal bill called the RESPONSE Act focuses on training and funding to emergency crews dealing with any derailments, but the letter says, "While we certainly need to be cognizant of those needs, the paramount issue is preventing these derailments and explosions from occurring in the first place."

Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) was the lone Republican to sign the letter.

47 people were killed in a 2013 derailment in Quebec and other accidents in Illinois and North Dakota have increased awareness of the issue over the past few years.

The American Association of Railroads shows the number of tankers hauling oil has increased exponentially from 2009. That year saw 9,500 carloads of crude throughout the country, compared to more than 400,000 in 2013.