Oil Train Regulation Passes in California
California lawmakers on Friday passed legislation requiring railroad companies to tell emergency officials when crude oil trains will chug through the state.
The bill would require railroads to notify the state's Office of Emergency Services when trains carrying crude oil from Canada and North Dakota are headed to refineries in the most populous U.S. state.
"We have a spotlight on this issue because of the seriousness of the risk to public safety that it presents," said the bill's author, Democratic Assembly man Roger Dickinson, whose district encompasses parts of Sacramento along the trains' route.
The legislation follows a disastrous oil train derailment in Canada that killed 47 people and spilled 1.6 million gallons of crude last year.
Worried that a similar spill could happen in California, firefighters and other safety officials have urged state lawmakers to increase safety regulations on oil trains and improve communication between railroads and first responders about when oil shipments are coming through.
President Barack Obama proposed new safety requirements last month that could lower speed limits for trains carrying oil and increase safety standards for oil tank cars.
The volume of oil shipped by train through California has increased dramatically in recent years, public safety experts told a legislative committee at a hearing in June.
Oil and rail industry representatives told lawmakers that they had already done much to improve safety. BNSF Railway lobbyist Juan Acosta testified that the company had agreed to slow its oil trains to 40 mph and increase inspections of its tracks.
Railroads are not currently required to proactively share their oil train schedules with first responders.
(additional reporting by Aaron Mendelson in Sacramento; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Simon Cameron-Moore)