Will Increased Crude Oil Rail Transportation Affect Rail Safety?

By: Caitlin Conk

Blog Category: Economics of Environmental Regulation

The safety of rail transportation of crude oil is a hot topic in California, as it will soon see a surge in the number of trains carrying crude oil into the state from North Dakota and Canada. The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and Natural Resources Committee has raised significant questions regarding the best way to regulate oil by rail in California, how to foster inter-agency cooperation and ensure adequate emergency response in cases of accidents.

In just two years, California has seen a 4 million barrels of oil by rail increase, with a projection of up to 150 million barrels by 2016, according to Energy Commission data. While the increase is economically favoring, it comes with serious concerns of regulations with regards to railroad operations and safety. Although California’s Public Utilities Commission is responsible for regulating railroad safety, the Federal Railroad Safety Act preempts state law raising questions as to whether the existing federal regulations are stringent enough and what states can do to protect public health and the environment.


Jayni Foley Hein, As oil by rail gains momentum, is California on track to protect human health and the environment?, The Berkeley Blog, http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2014/03/31/as-oil-by-rail-gains-momentum-is-california-on-track-to-protect-human-health-and-the-environment.

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