Canada and the U.S. will announce tougher joint standards Friday to make railcars safer for carrying crude oil and other flammable liquids.
Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt is scheduled to be in Washington for an announcement along with Anthony Foxx, the U.S. secretary of transportation.
The two “will announce the next generation of stronger, safer rail tank cars for the transportation of flammable liquids in North America,” according to a statement from Raitt’s office.
The rules are expected to require thicker steel for rail cars and other safety features. The countries developed the regulation amid a rise in shipments of oil by rail and after a series of fiery derailments, including one in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people in July 2013.
Canada announced its own tougher standards in March, saying it was still working on joint standards with the Americans. In early April, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a 40 mile-per-hour speed limit for trains in densely populated areas.
Meanwhile on Thursday, U.S. senators from six states proposed that the government charge companies a special fee to ship oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids in older railroad tank cars that have been involved in fiery explosions.
The proposal would be paired with tax breaks for new tank cars built to better withstand derailments. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, told The Associated Press the intent is to offer “market-based” incentives for companies to improve safety.
The fee would start at $175 and increase to $1,400 per car by 2018. It would raise an estimated $600 million to train first responders, clean up spills and relocate rail tracks around populated areas.
“The idea is to speed up the phaseout of older tank cars,” Wyden said. He added it “allows us to move in a much faster and more aggressive fashion to make oil by rail transportation safer.”
Co-sponsoring the fee legislation were six Democrats: Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Charles Schumer of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Mark Warner of Virginia and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Tank cars often are owned not by railroads but by the companies that produce oil, ethanol and other fuels moved by rail. There are roughly 55,000 older DOT-111s that would be subject to the fee.
The tax breaks would apply to cars constructed since 2011 under a voluntary industry standard meant to improve safety that has proved insufficient. It would cover up to 15 percent of the expense of upgrading cars.
A study commissioned last year by the Railway Supply Institute, which represents tank car owners and manufacturers, said modifying the flammable liquids tank car fleet would cost more than $4 billion.
BNSF Railway recently imposed a $1,000 fee on older tank cars used to carry crude, drawing a lawsuit from fuel and chemical refiners who contended the surcharge is illegal.