US, Canada unveil rules to boost oil train safety

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New safety rules are coming for the potentially hazardous oil trains that speed through Chicago and the suburbs every day. (WLS)

Each year thousands of trains loaded with potentially dangerous cargos pass through Chicago and the suburbs

On Friday, the U.S. and Canada unveiled new rules that might make them safer.

Some Chicago-area leaders disagree about the efficacy of the new rules. The I-Team first reported two days ago that federal authorities were going to impose new regulations on rail tankers that haul crude oil, tankers that have become known as bomb trains after numerous fiery accidents.

Tonight these new rules are being denounced by some suburban leaders.

As an oil train rumbled through downtown Aurora this afternoon, mayor Tom Weisner was trying to digest his lunch.

"The overall rule making is about as riddled with holes as Swiss cheese," Weisner says. "So I'm concerned about all the holes."

Weisner says the holes in the new federal regulations, notably a five year grace period, offer little immediate protection to the millions of people who live, work and go to school along freight train routes.

"They can continue to use tank cars of a lower standard the very ones that we've seen derail, puncture, explode and burn," he says. "One would think the sense of urgency would be a little greater than it has been."

A catastrophic accident two years ago in Quebec that killed dozens of people and numerous other derailments, wrecks and fires including some recently in Illinois, prompted Weisner, Barrington president Karen Darch and other local officials to press for a quick crackdown on unsafe oil tanker. For them, the one proposed by the feds today doesn't cut it.

"I think our approach now will be as communities to work with our federal legislators," Darch says. "There have been several bills proposed on looking at this issue so we really need to work with them because it really is not an acceptable solution."

In a statement Illinois senator Dick Durbin says he's disappointed in such a lengthy timeline for the new standards, but he notes they will help meet the safety goal. However, Durbin says strengthening tank cars alone will not solve all of our rail safety issues and that there is a need to address rail safety comprehensively.

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