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MOSIER bill requires feds to act after train wrecks

Merkley, Wyden introduce oil-train legislation in U.S. Senate -


PMG FILE PHOTO - The aftermath of the Mosier oil train derailment, which occured on June 3 of this year.Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced a bill into the U.S. Senate Wednesday that, if passed, might prod federal regulatory agencies into greater action after oil train fires.

The cleverly-titled Mandate Oil Spill Inspections and Emergency Rules (or MOSIER) Act requires the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate every major oil train derailment and provides funding so the agency can hire more investigators.

The NTSB did not investigate the Union Pacific oil train fire that wrecked 16 tankers outside Moiser, on June 3.

In a letter sent to both senators, the agency blamed limited resources, saying the accident “did not pose any new significant safety issues.”

“As Oregon has seen firsthand, these oil trains are rolling explosion hazards,” Merkley said in a press release. “That’s unacceptable. We need long-term solutions that will keep communities safe.”

The MOSIER Act would lower the amount of volatile gases allowed in crude oil. It also clarifies the Federal Rail Administration’s authority to pause oil trains in order to complete investigations or implement new safety features.

After the Moiser derailment, the FRA found that the wreck “did not constitute a reoccurring issue or immediate threat to the public,” and therefore the agency had no authority to stop oil train traffic, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Merkley.

The new bill allows the FRA to halt oil trains after any crash.

Numerous Oregon officials have called for at least a temporary halt to oil train traffic through the Columbia River Gorge, including both senators, Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici. That power, however, is reserved to the federal level.

Fewer than 4 percent of bills introduced into the current Congress have been signed into law, according to online legislation tracker GovTrack.us.