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Jack Gerard's remarks at press briefing on crude-by-rail safety course for first responders

Press briefing on crude-by-rail safety course for first responders
Jack Gerard, API president and CEO
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good morning,

The oil and natural gas industry is committed to safety; it is our core value in everything we do – exploration, production, refining and transportation. Today, I’m pleased to announce a new effort to support and enhance the safety and work of first responders.

North America’s energy renaissance has brought many changes to the transportation network for oil and petroleum products. We are committed to helping first responders and the public understand what those shifts may mean to them.

As the U.S. has become the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas, shipments of crude by rail have increased. North America’s freight railroads move 99.998 percent of hazardous materials to their destination without incident, but the oil and natural gas industry’s goal for safety is always zero incidents.

This is not a goal that can be reached through any single action or step. Eliminating the last elements of risk requires a holistic and science based approach to better prevent, mitigate and respond to derailments of trains carrying crude oil.

The ongoing work to enhance tank car safety is one element of this work. Our industry acted voluntarily to begin building more advanced tank cars in 2011, and we support further upgrades to the fleet to make it even safer. But to quote former DOT official Cynthia Quarterman, “a new tank car is not a silver bullet.”

A truly comprehensive safety effort also requires industry and regulators to do more to prevent train derailments and effectively respond if an incident occurs.

Canada’s Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and the head of the labor union for workers who build, inspect and maintain railroad tracks have recently noted the importance of accident prevention on the part of our colleagues in the rail industry, just as we are focused on mitigation.

But both industries have knowledge and expertise that can help prepare firefighters and other first responders to take the appropriate actions if a derailment involving a crude oil train does occur.

Since last summer, API, the Association of American Railroads and the member companies in both our organizations have worked to develop a crude-by-rail education module for first responders.

Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts prevented AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger from joining me on the phone here today. But in our press release, which you’ll receive shortly, Ed says, “Freight railroads are fully committed to the safe movement of crude oil and other hazardous materials by rail. This course is another example of how railroads and their customers work with communities coast-to-coast to help with awareness and preparedness for any type of incident.”

The course, which will complement existing training efforts for firefighters and other first responders, will be taught for the first time this weekend at a firefighters’ conference in Nebraska by instructors from BNSF and at the annual conference for short line railroads in Florida.

Participants will learn about the characteristics of crude oil, the rail cars in which it is shipped, and the considerations and strategies for spill response and firefighting that should be weighed. The materials also highlight the importance of following training and the incident command system at all times.

We partnered with the Federal Railroad Administration to identify states for the initial rollout of this program, which will be offered free of charge at hazmat and emergency response conferences across North America.

Requests have also come in from a number of other states, and we intend to fulfill them all. Course offerings are already confirmed or being planned in more than 15 states.

TRANSCAER, a voluntary national outreach effort that helps communities prepare for and respond to transportation incidents involving hazardous materials, will have primary responsibility for distributing the program.

The materials are posted and publicly available on our website and will be on TRANSCAER’s website soon, but the course should only be taught by a certified professional. Fire departments and other state and local officials who are interested in having the course taught in their area should contact their TRANSCAER state coordinator.

A DVD version of the course is also being produced, and we will work through TRANSCAER’s network to distribute these DVDs directly to fire houses once they are available.

Although the Federal Railroad Administration did offer a grant, no taxpayer funds were used to create this program. Development has been funded entirely by the oil and rail industries.

When it comes to shipping crude oil by rail our first priority is safety. While the first steps are to prevent and mitigate the impact of train derailments, if an incident happens, we also need to make sure firefighters and first responders have the knowledge they need to protect local communities.

Thank you for taking the time to call in today. If there are any questions, I’ll be happy to take them now.
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