Crude oil cars may carry higher risk

Rail cars used across the United States to ship crude oil were recently labeled an "unacceptable risk" by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The rail cars in question are the DOT-111 models, which are currently used in Southeast Texas.

Federal officials also issued an emergency order requiring that crude oil undergo extra testing before it is shipped.

Port Arthur resident Wendell Holmes said he does not agree that crude oil is to blame.

"I've been living in the Golden Triangle working in plants and there's danger but they're relatively safe," Holmes said. "No more dangerous than driving this vehicle."

According to government figures, US freight railroads transported almost half a million carloads of crude last year and 69 percent of them were the rail cars in question.

Bart Owens, Vice President of GT Logistics, LLC which owns GT Omni Port, said they take voluntary safety measures in addition to following federal regulation.

"We test that crude oil when it comes out of the ground to determine what category it may fall in," Owens said. "That determines how fast it goes, how many people on board, etc."

The order came after several deadly derailments carrying oil from North Dakota's Bakken Region, including a derailment in Quebec last summer that killed nearly 50 people.  

Owens said he thinks the new rules are reactionary and that crude oil is not necessarily to blame.

"We've been moving crude oil one way or another to Port Arthur, Texas to refine gasoline and all of our cars," he said, "We're going to have to do it for a long time, so we may as well define what's safe and we think we know what's safe."


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