THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT CAN’T

As the number of derailments by trains carrying crude oil escalates, lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration to act.

For one, each time one of the trains transporting crude oil has derailed or collided with another train, it’s set off an explosion, leaving railcars
ablaze. And those explosions are forcing nearby residents to evacuate their homes.

The accidents are feeding growing concerns over whether crude oil from sites like the Bakken formation should be transported by rail at all. But a group of senators are pushing the Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and other federal departments to act, and act fast.

In a meeting with lawmakers Thursday, Foxx said he would investigate the incidents. Regulators will test the crude oil coming from the Bakken formation and a Texas site to determine whether the oil being produced is more flammable than other, more conventional crude.

Administration officials felt pressure on the same day that President Obama formally announced a sweeping review of energy strategy that will involve departments and agencies across the federal government. And the first review including transportation of key energy sources like crude oil.

This issue will be a key one to watch in the coming year —the administration is eager to tout that the U.S. has reached a milestone in its domestic crude oil production. But that may be hard to do if railcars carrying the product continue to set off explosions.

The aging energy infrastructure is an issue plaguing more than just the oil and transportation sectors.

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