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Feds say new rail standards coming to be announced next week

With firetrucks as a backdrop, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, center, listens as North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven makes opening remarks during a meeting Thursday about rail safety at the fire station in Casselton. Also at the front table are North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp at far right. Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson also was at the table. Dave Wallis / The Forum

CASSELTON, N.D. – The Department of Transportation will submit a package of regulatory changes for rail shippers next week that include new tank car standards, Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.

Foxx, meeting with North Dakota’s federal delegation and other officials in Casselton to discuss improving rail safety, also indicated the proposed changes will likely include a retrofit or phaseout DOT-111 cars that are commonly used for shipping crude oil.

Those cars, which federal safety officials say are prone to puncture in derailments, were involved in several explosive incidents in the last year, including the fiery derailment in Casselton.

Foxx’s comments come a day after Canadian officials announced that DOT-111 rail cars used for carrying crude oil will be phased out in three years.

North Dakota’s congressional delegation and Gov. Jack Dalrymple continued to stress Thursday the need to improve rail safety as rail shipments of Bakken crude oil increased from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 407,642 carloads in 2013.

“Communities and industry have waited more than two years for new rules concerning the DOT-111 tanker, while rail demand continues to accelerate,” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said in a statement. “The federal government must do better.”

The Department of Transportation plans to send a comprehensive rulemaking package to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs next week and will initiate a formal commenting process as soon as possible, a spokesman said.

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