The oil industry wants the Obama administration to get involved in a fight it is picking with the railroads over attempts to strengthen tank car rules beyond the federal government's requirements.

It's a rare situation in which the oil industry and refiners want the Obama administration to issue more regulations to clarify who is the boss and to guard against another industry's imposition.

The role of the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration as the primary regulator for tank car safety is to ensure that "designs are in the public interest," said Robin Rorick, the American Petroleum Institute's director of midstream and industry operations.

"Attempts by third-party groups to deviate from [the pipeline regulator's] tank car requirements could compromise safety and jeopardize the strides industry has made to ensure the safe transport of products by rail," Rorick said Friday.

The Department of Transportation has implemented new rules to improve safety for railcars used to ship oil from producing states such as North Dakota to refiners and petrochemical production facilities. The standards were implemented by the administration in the wake of a number of major rail crashes in the U.S. and Canada, some of which have killed people.

The oil and gas boom caused by fracking has raised demand for moving petroleum across the country.

The American Petroleum Institute and a number of other groups sent their petition to the agency Friday asking it to propose new regulations for the sole purpose of telling the railroad industry trade group, the Association of American Railroads, who is in charge of setting national safety standards.

The petition says the railroad group has attempted to use its majority membership on its Tank Car Committee to influence the standards and has barred some of the groups signing the petition from participating.

Other petitioners on the railroad car panel said they have witnessed the group's attempts to increase tank car specifications beyond what the administration has detailed in its requirements.

The railroad group has required "or threatened to require" compliance with tank car designs, and has done so through so-called interchange rules that the association is charged with creating. All shippers are required to meet the standards to use the railroad, the petitioners said.

The proposed rules the petitioners are recommending "would protect that process from usurpation by the [railroad association], which has claimed a right to require adherence to different tank car standards in its role as a standards making body," it said.

"The proposed rules would foreclose that argument by unequivocally prohibiting such action without [Department of Transportation] authorization," it added.

The Association of American Railroads said it is reviewing the petition, but said its Tank Car Committee's purpose is to make tank cars even safer, even if it mean going beyond the federal standards. And it has been doing so for decades.

Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the railroad group, said the Department of Transportation rules "reflect the minimum level of safety required by law, but through the tank car committee with its shipper representatives, as well as input from tank car manufacturers and suppliers, in addition to participation from the [Department of Transportation] and other stakeholders, the entire focus is on identifying the safest way to transport goods, even if that goes beyond [federal] regulations.

"The fact is, through this shared responsibility, there have been dramatic improvements in rail safety in our country over the past several decades."

This isn't the first time the energy sector has come after the railroads. In the past, coal utilities complained about unfair charges and a lack of efficiency in getting rail shipments to power plants to keep the lights on.

The utilities in that instance also went to the Transportation Department's Surface Transportation Board for new rules to improve service. Legislation was even proposed.

It is not clear how far the energy groups will take their petition in an election year, especially as oil production has fallen in response the low oil prices and an over-supplied market.