Amid calls for an outright ban of old, dangerous tank cars that transport highly volatile crude oil by rail, industry leaders are pushing to keep them on the tracks even longer.

Top oil and railroad lobbyists on Tuesday urged federal regulators to give them as long as seven years to upgrade unsafe rail cars that have been at the center of devastating derailments, spills, and fires in the U.S. and Canada.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in July proposed new regulations to govern the crude-by-rail boom; the plan calls for a two-to-five-year phase-out of older tank cars as well as new brake controls and speed restrictions. The deadline for comments on the new rules, which environmentalists said didn’t go nearly far enough, was midnight Tuesday.

According to Fuel Fix, a Houston-based outlet covering the energy business, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Association of American Railroads are asking regulators to give manufacturing facilities six months to a year to ramp up capacity for handling retrofits of older DOT-111 tank cars made before October 2011, and then allow another three years to retrofit or replace them, for a potential total of four years. For some of the more resilient “1232” tank cars constructed since 2011, retrofits could be completed after an additional three years, meaning up to seven years from now, under API’s plan.

“The oil industry is expanding on a rail system that is patently unsafe for trains moving millions of gallons of hazardous, explosive crude oil, and so far the federal government appears asleep at the switch.”
—Matt Krogh, ForestEthics

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In a conference call with reporters, API president Jack Gerard said “current proposals could stifle North America’s energy renaissance and curtail substantial volumes of U.S. and Canadian oil production.”