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Crude Oil Transport: Working Together to Protect Public Health and Safety

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America is in the midst of an unprecedented increase in energy production. Today, the United States is producing more oil, gas, and renewable energy, and becoming more energy efficient overall. These trends are increasing our energy security, cutting our carbon pollution, and enhancing our economic growth. One area of substantial energy growth is crude oil, and with this increase in production comes the need to safely transport this oil across the nation. 

While rail incidents have declined by 47 percent over the past decade and incidents involving the transportation of hazardous materials have declined by 16 percent, incidents that do occur involving this product can have significant and devastating consequences to the public, local communities and the environment. That’s why agencies throughout the Federal government are working hard to ensure the safe, efficient, and environmentally conscious transport of crude oil across the United States. Ensuring the safe transportation of crude oil is a priority for the Administration, and FEMA has a unique role as part of this broader effort. 

First, we’re working with first responders to help them understand the risks associated with the transport of crude oil.  FEMA’s United States Fire Administration (USFA) has developed and provided training material and up-to-date information regarding the transport of hazardous materials, including shale crude oil, to local fire departments, fire training chiefs, and fire service training organizations across the country. Currently, USFA is providing “Coffee Break Trainings” to about 55,000 firefighters on the transport of crude oil from the Bakken region. USFA is also providing information on incident best practices and precautions to take if confronted with a spill from DOT to roughly 400,000 firefighters across the county through their network of first responders.

Second, we’re working to enhance community preparedness and resilience by supporting exercises specific to a crude oil spill. The purpose of these drills is to test federal, state, local, and tribal capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the impact of a hazardous waste incident.  We design these scenarios to push us to the limit, and very often push us to the point of failure so that we can identify where we need to improve.  Doing so enables communities to practice and refine their abilities to manage operations for an incident of this type (or similar hazardous substances) while identifying potential areas for improvement.

Finally, we’re making information available to families and communities regarding what hazardous materials are and what to do before, during, and after a hazardous material incident on Ready.gov. This is an important resource where we provide tips on how people can protect themselves from the effects of a hazardous materials incident. These tips include information on how to build an emergency supply kit and how to make a family emergency communications plan.

Ensuring the safe transportation of crude oil is a priority for the Administration. We’re focused on preventing accidents from occurring, minimizing consequences when accidents do occur, and taking steps to protect human health and the environment.  For more information on Federal efforts to ensure the safety of crude oil transport visit the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s page on safe transportation.

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:22

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