After almost two years of deliberation, Barack Obama’s administration is expected to enact regulations next month that will attempt to protect trackside communities from exploding oil trains.
However, the new rule won’t take the one step that could decrease the risk almost immediately — requiring North Dakota oil producers to either reduce their product’s explosiveness or ship it in pressurized cars.
Officials say they can’t take that step because nobody really knows how to reduce or properly measure the oil’s volatility.
Roughly a dozen oil trains have exploded in the United States and Canada in the past 21 months, including one in Quebec that left 47 people dead. The U.S. Department of Transportation has repeatedly warned of the unusual volatility of North Dakota’s oil. But the draft of the new rule that was released in July didn’t include anything to limit the oil’s volatility, and officials say the final rule won’t either.
That falls in line with the urging of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas industry’s largest trade group, but it’s likely to anger those residents and activists living near rail lines on which the oil trains travel.