Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

Bakken Oil Shipment Rule: Industry Representatives Meet With OMB

The review of a rule governing rail shipment of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota continued this week at the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, with a meeting between Obama administration officials and representatives from the oil industry.

The proposed rule – formally called “Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” – comes after a series of accidents and derailments involving Bakken oil, including one a year ago in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in which 47 people were killed in a fiery explosion.

Represented at the meeting with OIRA on Monday were Continental Resources, the oil company which is the largest producer in the Bakken region; another oil producer, Hess; the North Dakota Petroleum Council, and Turner, Mason — an engineering firm that is a consultant for the NDPC.

The NDPC brought to the meeting briefing materials on the Bakken oil’s impact on the state and the country, highlighting 65,000 new jobs in North Dakota, a $30 billion economic contribution to the state, and “revitalizing U.S. refineries on East Coast and West Coast.”

The presentation materials also said NDPC had commissioned a testing program of the Bakken crude and had concluded that it was “not materially different” from other light crudes.

An array of industries and interests from railroads to oil companies to environmentalists is eagerly awaiting publication of the rule from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Separately, in Washington state, Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat and an outspoken environmentalist, will have the final decision on whether to allow a new oil terminal to be built on the Columbia River at Vancouver, across from Portland, Ore.

Inslee spokesman David Postman told The Container on Friday that the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) is reviewing the proposal, and is expected to make a recommendation to Inslee, likely by early next year.

If EFSEC recommends the project, the governor can either accept or reject it, or he can ask the council to reconsider that recommendation.

Inslee’s state is one that is publishing data which the railroads are giving emergency management officials on the number of Bakken shipments passing through each of the state’s counties. The data show, for example, that BNSF sent 13 shipments through Clark County — where Vancouver is located — the week of June 6.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx issued an emergency order in May requiring railroads to give state emergency management officials this data.

  • Ron Schalow

    Bomb Trains only exist because Bakken oil producers have deliberately chosen not strip the crude of flammable natural gas liquids (NGL’s), and explosive gases, by a process known as stabilization. It’s not new.

    Why won’t they? Because stabilizing the crude costs money…and the oil companies make more money when they pad the tanker with the NGL’s. Deaths are irrelevant. They will do what they please until they are forced to make the oil safe for transport.

    The people running North Dakota, our spineless elected officials, would rather put their own citizens in danger, than disappoint the oil companies. You can speculate why.

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