Casey: Push new standards for oil-tank rail cars

File: A trainload of crude oil from North Dakota passes another train in Center City. (Jon Snyder/Daily News)

U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey (D., Pa.) called on the federal government Thursday to expedite the adoption of new standards for more robust oil-tank cars.

Casey, in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said the agency should move quickly in its review of new railcar standards following the latest oil-train accident and explosion, Feb. 16 in West Virginia.

"We want the administration to have a greater sense of urgency to get this out the door," Casey said in a conference call with reporters.

The senator also urged OMB to review speed limits for oil trains and take measures to improve communications for emergency responders.

The Inquirer reported Sunday that Philadelphia officials estimate that 45 to 80 oil trains move through the city each week.

Many of those trains carry the volatile North Dakota crude that has been implicated in a series of fiery accidents, the worst of which occurred when an unattended runaway train derailed in July 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

"We know that rail transportation is critical to our economy and to the growth of the country, [but] we also have to be mindful that millions of Americans live near these rail lines, and should have a right to expect their government . . . [to] take every step necessary to protect them and ensure their safety," Casey said.

He said he supported the efforts of Congress last year to fund 15 new rail and hazardous-materials inspectors and to retain 45 rail-safety positions.