A Third Blast on Oil Trains Stirs Scrutiny

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For the third time in less than a month, a train carrying flammable crude oil has derailed and burst into flames, prompting questions over whether stricter measures being considered to ensure their safety will be enough.

All three accidents involved a newer generation of tank cars that are supposed to be sturdier and safer than older models.

Those cars will be upgraded as part of a new federal standard that is being phased in this year and will take effect in 2017. The new standard will require thicker steel shielding and better thermal protections, and will have to be fitted with more crash-resistant valves. Older models, mostly built before 2011, that cannot be refitted with those features will have to be retired from use with hazardous materials.

But some lawmakers and safety experts are worried the new measures might prove inadequate.

“We shouldn’t have to tolerate or get into our minds that accidents and derailments and loss of hazardous materials is normal,” said Brigham A. McCown, a former administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “It’s not.”

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