Feds: Oil from Dakota Fields Improperly Classified
WASHINGTON (AP) — Government investigators have found crude oil being transported from North Dakota's Bakken region was misclassified in samples taken from 11 out of 18 truck shipments en route to rail loading stations, federal transportation officials said Tuesday.
Hazardous materials shipments are supposed to be classified into one of nine categories depending on the risk involved. If the materials are misclassified, they could wind up being shipped in less protective rail tank cars and emergency personnel might follow the wrong protocols when responding to a spill.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said it has proposed fining three companies involved in the shipments — Hess Corp., Whiting Oil and Gas Corp., and Marathon Oil Co. — a total of $93,000.
"The fines we are proposing today should send a message to everyone involved in the shipment of crude oil: You must test and classify this material properly if you want to use our transportation system to ship it," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
A runaway train with 72 tank cars of Bakken oil derailed, exploded and burned in the downtown area of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, near the Maine border in July. Forty-seven people were killed and 30 buildings destroyed.
The accident was a wake-up call for safety officials, who were surprised by its severity. Tests taken of Bakken oil since the Lac-Megantic accident shows it is more dangerous than some other types of crude. The oil in the train that derailed in Lac-Megantic was misclassified as "packing group III," which the safety administration equates to minor danger.
Some of the recently tested oil was classified as "packing group II" when it should have been "packing group I," the most dangerous category, while other truckloads were classified as packing group III when they should have been classified as packing group II, federal officials said. Regulations require shippers have a security plan in place for packing groups I and II, but not packing group III.
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