I-Team: Gov't proposes stricter standards for DOT-111 crude oil tankers

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The federal government is now proposing new rules to limit risk on the rails, a story the ABC7 I-Team has been following for the past year. (WLS)

The federal government is now proposing new rules to limit risk on the rails, a story the ABC7 I-Team has been following for the past year. After a number of deadly derailments involving crude oil tankers, there is now a movement to toughen standards.

Just this week the I-Team spotted an endless line of tank cars, known as DOT-111s, carrying crude oil through the western suburbs.

Twenty years ago, federal investigators deemed this type of tank car inadequate to haul crude and ethanol, but the problem was never fixed. Since then, oil tankers have been involved in dozens of derailments, including one in Quebec, Canada, a year ago when 47 people died.

New rules proposed Wednesday by the Department of Transportation would phase out older model tank cars beginning in 2016, unless they are retrofitted to meet current safety standards.

"Out of all the options our role presents, it is mine and our department's preference to go with the one that is safest for communities along these routes, and for the men and women operating these trains. Safety, after all, is the goal of this department and it is the most important part of our mission," said Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The government is also proposing speed restrictions on trains carrying more than 20 tank cars of crude oil, risk assessments of rail routes, and tougher testing standards for crude coming from the Bakken region. Research shows Bakken oil is more volatile. According to the railroads, as many as 40 trains carrying Bakken crude pass through the Chicago area every week.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the proposed rules Wednesday, saying in a statement this is "another very important step to reduce the risk of catastrophic disasters in our cities."

Some environmental groups say they are disappointed with the proposed rules, saying the older model tank cars should be banned immediately. There is a 60-day comment period for the public and industry leaders to give their input before any rules would be implemented.

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