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A push to increase safety regulations for rail tankers

Protesters in Bergen County Tuesday urged county, local and state officials to ban rail tankers from carrying crude oil through New Jersey.

(Jennifer Dodge, ThinkStock)

Meanwhile, a trio of state lawmakers is asking the state’s congressional delegation to support new safety regulations proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board. The legislators said a recent report revealed the vast majority of the tankers do not meet the industry’s latest safety standards.

“The amount of crude oil that’s transported via rail has increased 4,200 percent over the past six years (and) the cars that transport that oil are really of substandard quality,” said Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerville). “The steel shells on these cars fall below the thickness required to prevent perforation during, for example a derailment.”

American Association of Railroads statistics state that only 15 percent of the 92,000 tanker cars on the rails today meet the latest industry standards. The NTSB’s proposed regulations would require the tankers to meet with thickness standards and to enhance their braking systems within two years, or run the risk of being taken out of service. Support from New Jersey’s congressional delegation would help promulgate the rules, Ciattarelli said.

“I don’t want to be an alarmist, but there was a situation in Canada last year where a derailment caused a terrible accident and 47 people died,” Ciattarelli said.

Ciattarelli and his two colleagues from the 16th Legislative District, State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerville) and Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Flemington), sent a letter to the Garden State congressional delegation formally requesting support for the NTSB proposal.

On Tuesday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada released a report that named 18 factors in the 2013 Lac-Megantic, Quebec train derailment, including the fact that one-third of the tanker cars that derailed released massive amounts of crude oil as a result of large breaches in the tanks.

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