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New Law Gives Emergency Planners Oil By Rail Information

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Associated Press

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, July 6, 2013.

A new law that goes into effect Jan. 31 in California requires railroads to give more information to emergency planners about crude oil shipments.

Local and state emergency responders say they are given very little detail about the movement of trains carrying crude oil.

A 2013 Bakken crude oil train explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec raised awareness of the danger that poses.

Kelly Huston with the California Office of Emergency Services said with the predicted increase in the amount of imported crude oil, more information is needed.

“Being able to know what’s coming and then being able to prepare for it and take actions that may be needed whether it’s moving hazardous materials crews or whether it is, perhaps we know about an event that’s going on in a highly populated area and we would want to make sure the railroad is aware of that,” Huston said.

Under the new law, railroads will have to submit weekly schedules of trains, and the volumes of crude oil they carry. They would also have to set up a communications center for first responders and give local authorities access to emergency plans.

The California Energy Commission has estimated nearly a quarter of the oil imported into the state will be delivered by rail by 2016.

“It’s not only having the knowledge but also how we use that knowledge to both prevent an accident from occurring and then having adequate hazardous materials resources and first responder resources to respond in the event there is an accident,” Houston said.


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