New rules let the oil trains roll..

Earlier this week, the oil industry criticized new safety standards released by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Right on cue, barely 48 hours later, an oil train derailed and exploded in North Dakota, and proved that the new standards probably don't go far enough.

Before this week, there had already been five oil train explosions in North America this year alone, and that number is likely to increase as more and more crude oil is shipped by train. In response to the numerous disasters, the Department of Transportation has implemented new safety rules, which have Big Oil complaining about costs and transport time.

The DOT has instituted a new, lower speed limit of 50 mph on trains carrying flammable materials, and a limit of 40 mph through urban areas. In addition, all trains carrying oil must have updated braking systems, better classification of materials, and operators must abide by new protocols.

While those increased standards are marginally better, the Think Progress Blog points out that the new rules actually rescind one important safety requirement that went in to place last year.

For a short time, railroads were required to tell states when flammable shipments were coming through, but these new rules leave that burden on the states by simply providing a phone number that officials can use to find out about potentially dangerous rail cars.

So, it's understandable that environmental groups and some lawmakers are upset about these new rules. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state said that these new rules “let the oil trains roll.” She added, “It does nothing to address explosive volatility, very little to reduce the treat of rail car punctures, and is too slow on the removal of the most dangerous cars.”

And she's exactly right. The only safe oil trail is the one that doesn't exist, and the only way to ensure the safety of our communities is to stop drilling for oil once and for all.

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