Dave Mistich Published

Sen. Manchin on Crude-By-Rail Safety: 'I Want to See Progress'


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin says he’ll speak with other members of Senate Commerce Committee about crude-by-rail safety following last week’s train derailment in Fayette County.

During a conference call with reporters Monday, Manchin said he has “no qualms” about asking the Senate to conduct a full investigation into the incident once he’s spoken to other senators with information on the issue.

Manchin cited a U.S. Department of Transportation study that predicts up to 10 Bakken crude derailments each year given the increase in shipments. He noted nearly 11,000 carloads were shipped in the country in 2009 and increased to nearly 100,000 in just the first quarter of 2013. He said those figures are cause for an increase in concern regarding crude-by-rail safety.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable to say you’re doing everything possible to be safe when I see what I saw what happened in my state,” said Manchin. “So, they can tell me that all they want to but I want to see progress and in which direction and how quickly we’re going to get there.”

Manchin also said he sees both sides as to whether oil shipment data should be publicly released by the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires rail companies to file this information with state emergency officials.

Manchin said he sees the potential for terrorist organizations to use this data but also understands why homeowners who live near these shipments might also find them useful.

“I believe that people that should know do know and all the people that have been trained should be trained properly to handle whatever HAZMAT material we’re moving through our state. They should have all access to this,” said Manchin.

“That’s going to be a policy decision that governor and the legislature is going to have to make in Charleston. I can understand the logic both ways,” he added.

Some states have made this information public, although West Virginia officials have repeatedly declined to do so.

The Federal Railroad Administration has said the oil shipment data is neither security sensitive nor proprietary. That agency is leading the investigation into last Monday’s derailment.