A government warning about the dangers of increased use of trains to transport crude oil is giving a boost to supporters of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline.
U.S. and Canadian accident investigators urged their governments Thursday to impose new safety rules on so-called oil trains, warning that a "major loss of life" could result from an accident involving the increasing use of trains to transport large amounts of crude oil.
Pipeline supporters say the warning highlights the need for Keystone XL, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada through Nebraska and other Midwestern states to Gulf Coast refineries.
North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said the years-long review of Keystone has forced oil companies to look for pipeline alternatives in the booming Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.
Union Pacific CEO Jack Koraleski said in Omaha Thursday the railroad industry has agreed to begin treating crude oil like a toxic chemical and carefully plan out the safest routes possible. The railroad industry will start using existing rules for hazardous chemicals like anhydrous ammonia to determine the best route for crude oil shipments.
Railroads hauled more than 400,000 carloads of crude oil last year because production in North Dakota has outpaced pipeline capacity.
Several fiery accidents involving crude oil, including one that killed 47 in Canada last summer, have increased concerns about the shipments. Federal accident investigators recommended several new safety measures Thursday.
Koraleski said railroads are working hard to make crude oil shipments safer than they already are.