Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) has introduced legislation to protect local communities by getting unsafe oil tank cars off the tracks and giving firefighters and first responders the resources needed to prepare for derailments and accidents.
Bonamici’s legislation, The Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2016, would take the most dangerous, older tank cars off the tracks, replace them with safer tank cars, and provide funding to communities near rail lines that are at risk of certain hazardous material disasters.
To encourage rail companies to transition to newer, safer tank cars, the bill would place a shipment fee on older tank cars with known safety risks. The revenue raised by the fee would establish a fund for clean-up costs to help communities and first responders prepare for rail accidents. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
“Day after day residents, businesses, and communities near rail lines wonder if an oil train accident will happen in their backyard,” Bonamici said. “It’s time to give residents more peace of mind by getting unsafe tank cars off the tracks. We must also make sure that our firefighters and first responders are ready and equipped to respond if an accident happens.”
“Congresswoman Bonamici’s work in the House of Representatives marks a huge step toward passing real reforms that protect communities near rail tracks,” said Senator Wyden. “The Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act would improve safety for people living near tracks and provide communities with the help they need to move tracks away from populated areas if they choose. Our bills also would support first responders getting needed aid for training, so they can continue their life-saving work protecting communities like Mosier and others nationwide.”
“The Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act is an important step forward to protect our communities and their citizens from the dangers of flammable cargo,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said. “Of particular importance, the legislation provides new funding to train fire fighters in hazardous materials response so that at-risk communities are prepared in case of an accident.”
The bill also provides grants to reroute railroad tracks that handle large volumes of hazardous materials away from communities and help states hire additional railroad inspectors. The legislation would provide a tax credit to companies that upgrade tank cars to safer, retrofitted tank cars. It requires implementation of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations for railroads and railroad accidents.
In addition, the bill instructs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a study examining national first responder preparedness for railroad accidents involving flammable materials and requires the DOT to study whether longer freight trains pose greater risks to public health and safety.