In response to a request from Congress to study the impact of shale oil and gas development on transportation infrastructure and safety, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently published a report commenting on these developments and focusing on DOT’s response to address safety risks posed by rail and pipeline transportation.
Continue Reading GAO Recommends that DOT Address Risks from Unregulated Gathering Pipelines

In response to recent oil spills by rail and pipeline as well as a report by DOT’s Office of Inspector General criticizing PHMSA oversight of state pipeline safety programs, states are becoming increasingly active in oil spill response and oil transportation safety.  Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), state spill response regulations may exceed federal requirements.  33 U.S.C. 2718 (stating that OPA does not preempt a State’s imposition of additional liability or requirements regarding oil releases within the State or any removal activities associated with a release).  Some states, including California, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, already impose additional spill response requirements.
Continue Reading States Increasingly Active in Oil Spill Response and Pipeline Safety

The DOT has issued an Emergency Order requiring that railroads operating trains carrying more than 1,000,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil (approximately 35 tank cars) in a particular state must notify the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) of the expected movement of such trains through the counties in that state.
Continue Reading New Emergency Order and Safety Advisory Affecting Crude Shipments by Rail

In response to concerns raised by shippers, on March 6, 2014, DOT amended its recent Emergency Order (see prior pipelinelaw alert) imposing certain testing and classification requirements on all persons who offer crude for transport by rail in the U.S.
Continue Reading DOT Amends Emergency Order Affecting Crude Shipments by Rail

In response to a string of recent accidents and subsequent investigations regarding the shipment of crude oil by rail, DOT issued an Emergency Order on February 25, 2014, requiring that crude shipped by rail be tested and properly classified prior to shipment.
Continue Reading DOT Emergency Order Affects Crude Shipments by Rail

A recent string of oil train derailments has renewed focus on rail safety and boosted support for oil pipelines as a safer mode of transportation, potentially affecting the public’s perception of pipeline projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline, whose southern leg went into service on January 22, 2014 and whose northern leg was the subject of a relatively objective final supplemental Environmental Impact Statement from the Department of State, issued on January 31, 2014.
Continue Reading Rail Transport: A Riskier Proposition

On January 2, 2014, PHMSA issued a safety alert warning that Bakken crude oil may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil, and stressing the requirement that rail shipments be properly tested, characterized, degasified (if appropriate), and classified in appropriate packing group assignments.
Continue Reading Safety Alert Issued for Rail Transportation of Bakken Crude