Wolf hires expert on preventing oil-train mishaps

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Gov. Tom Wolf. (Bradley C Bower/For the Inquirer)

The Wolf administration is hiring a railroad engineering expert for three months to advise on ways to prevent oil-train accidents.

Allan M. Zarembski, a University of Delaware research professor and director of the university's railroad engineering and safety program, will study oil-train risk factors and make recommendations to improve operations in Pennsylvania, said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Wolf.

"The governor wants to make sure we can prevent an oil-train disaster in Pennsylvania," Sheridan said. "This is an issue that the governor has made one of his top priorities - to protect the public from that kind of disaster."

Wolf said in a statement: "Pennsylvania sees some of the largest volume of Bakken crude oil transportation by rail in the United States, and the potential for disaster is too great to ignore."

Each week, 60 to 70 trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken region travel through Pennsylvania, bound for refineries in Philadelphia and other East Coast cities.

Wolf sent a letter to President Obama in February, calling for new federal safety regulations on oil trains. And his office said he had met with executives of the Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads to discuss increased safety measures the operators could take.

The state Public Utility Commission's rail safety section is hiring two more inspectors, in addition to the six already in place, the PUC said. The state inspectors, along with Federal Railroad Administration and the railroads' own inspectors, are responsible for monitoring the safety of 5,400 miles of track in Pennsylvania.

Zarembski, who will be paid $38,000 by the state, was president of Zeta-Tech Associates Inc., a railway technical consulting and applied technology company that he established in 1984. He also was director of research and development for Pandrol Inc. and Speno Rail Services Co., and manager of track research for the Association of American Railroads.

 


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