Sen. Warner calls for greater rail safety efforts

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Local,Virginia,Mark Warner

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — U.S. Sen Mark Warner said Monday that oil producers and rail companies need to step up their safety efforts in the wake of crude oil car that caught fire during the April 30 train derailment in downtown Lynchburg.

Warner said another derailment could make local officials wary of allowing large train shipments of crude oil to travel through their communities and lead to increased regulations, hurting the bottom lines of oil producers and rail companies.

"They need to have some skin in the game in helping to get this fixed," Warner said at a hearing he convened in Richmond.

Tank cars are generally owned by or leased to oil companies that ship the crude, not the railroads.

Federal investigators are still trying to determine what caused the 17-car derailment of a CSX train carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota. Three of the cars plunged into the James River and one caught fire, briefly causing parts of downtown to be evacuated.

An oil boom in North Dakota has increased dramatically the amount of Bakken crude traveling through Virginia's rail lines in recent years.

At Monday's hearing, several local and emergency officials worried about the potential for another derailment and their capacity to deal with it, particularly in rural areas.

Much of the discussion centered on the safety of newer, stronger DOT-111 tanker cars, like the one that ruptured and caught fire in Lynchburg.

Cynthia L. Quarterman, who oversees the federal Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, cautioned that safer rail cars are not a "silver bullet" to prevent future ruptures and a more comprehensive approach is needed.

CSX vice president Bryan Rhode, a former Virginia Secretary for Public Safety, said his company has made several efforts at training first responders and keeping local officials informed of hazardous cargo movement.

"We understand that there are concerns," Rhode said. "Safety is our first priority."

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