Lawmakers to Press Federal Officials, Industry on Oil-Train Risks

CULVER CITY, CA - APRIL 25: Oil rigs extract petroleum as the price of crude oil rises to nearly $120 per barrel, prompting oil companies to reopen numerous wells across the nation that were considered tapped out and unprofitable decades ago when oil sold for one-fifth the price or less, on April 25, 2008 in the Los Angeles area community of Culver City, California. Many of the old unprofitable wells, known as 'stripper wells', are located in urban areas where home owners are often outraged by the noise, smell, and possible environmental hazards associated with living so close to renewed oil drilling. Since homeowners usually do not own the mineral rights under their land, oil firms can drill at an angle to go under homes regardless of the desires of residents. Using expensive new technology and drilling techniques, California producers have reversed a long decline of about 5 percent annually with an increased crude flow of about 2 1/2 million barrels in 2007 for the first time in years.  (National Journal)

Wednesday brings the first Capitol Hill hearing on the risks of shipping crude oil on railways since a string of recent accidents has prompted regulators to toughen oversight of the growing practice.

The Transportation Department, on the eve of the House hearing, announced new testing and classification mandates for shipment of oil from North Dakota's booming Bakken region.

Reuters sets the table for the hearing with a story that explores what lawmakers plan to ask federal regulators and industry officials.

"The pressure and volatility of these shipments have not been getting enough attention," said Rep. Rick Larsen, a Washington state Democrat, in the Reuters story.

Bloomberg looks at the Transportation Department's new testing and shipping mandates here, and quotes an official with a rail-services company who says the requirements could worsen the shortage of tanker cars.

But a lobbyist for the refining company Tesoro tells The Wall Street Journal that refiners applaud the new requirements.