WASHINGTON — Responding to a series of fiery train crashes, the government proposed rules Wednesday that would phase out tens of thousands of older tank cars that carry increasing quantities of crude oil and other highly flammable liquids through America's towns and cities.
But many details were put off until later as regulators struggle to balance safety against the economic benefits of a fracking boom that has sharply increased U.S. oil production. Among the issues: What type of tank cars will replace those being phased out, how fast will they be allowed to travel and what kind of braking systems will they need?
Accident investigators have long complained that older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are too easily punctured or ruptured, spilling their contents when derailed. Since 2008, there have been 10 significant derailments in the United States and Canada in which crude oil has spilled from ruptured tank cars, often igniting into huge fireballs. The worst was a runaway oil train that exploded in a Quebec town a year ago, killing 47 people.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx expects his department to have final regulations by year-end.