U.S. Rail Transportation of Crude Oil: Background and Issues for Congress [February 6, 2014] [open pdf - 495KB]
"The rapid expansion of North American oil production has led to significant challenges in transporting crudes efficiently and safely to domestic markets--principally refineries--using the nation's legacy pipeline infrastructure. In the face of continued uncertainty about the prospects for additional pipeline capacity, and as a quicker, more flexible alternative to new pipeline projects, North American crude oil producers are increasingly turning to rail as a means of transporting crude supplies to U.S. markets. According to rail industry officials, U.S. freight railroads are estimated to have carried more than 400,000 carloads of crude oil in 2013 (roughly equivalent to 280 million barrels), compared to 9,500 carloads in 2008. Crude imports by rail from Canada have increased more than 20-fold since 2011. While oil by rail has demonstrated benefits with respect to the efficient movement of oil from producing regions to market hubs, it has also raised significant concerns about transportation safety and potential impacts to the environment. […] Legislation introduced in Congress following the Lac Mégantic disaster would require railroads to have at least two crew members aboard all trains. In addition, policymakers are discussing regulatory changes involving tank car design, prevention of derailments, and selection of preferred routes for transporting oil by rail."
CRS Report for Congress, R43390
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html