In a letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Klobuchar urged DOT to work collaboratively with rail carriers and first responders to establish an information-sharing system that will help communities plan for and respond to rail incidents
Klobuchar also pressed the agency to determine what changes to current oil spill response plans would be necessary to extend these requirements to trains carrying crude oil, and if doing so would help improve safety
WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today said that the new federal rail safety rule released by the Department of Transportation (DOT) represents meaningful progress toward improving safety, but that more work remains to protect communities in Minnesota along rail routes. In a letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Klobuchar urged DOT to work collaboratively with rail carriers and first responders to establish an information-sharing system that will help communities plan for and respond to rail incidents. Klobuchar also pressed the agency to determine what changes to current oil spill response plans would be necessary to extend these requirements to trains carrying crude oil, and if doing so would help improve safety.
“Recent railroad derailments have shined a bright light on the need to ensure the highest level of safety for families living along rail routes,” Klobuchar said. “The Department of Transportation’s new rail safety rule represents meaningful progress toward that goal, but additional steps need to be taken to keep communities safe. In particular, I’m urging the DOT to work closely with rail carriers and local first responders to develop an information-sharing system that will help communities respond quickly and effectively to any future rail incidents.”
Klobuchar is a leader in the Senate on the effort to improve rail safety and service across the country. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees federal rail issues, she successfully pushed for a hearing last year where she pressed federal rail officials on the need to move forward on critical safety measures to strengthen rail infrastructure and protect communities along rail routes. She also sent letters to the Senate Appropriations Committee calling for increased funding for additional rail inspectors and for a stronger inspection process.
At a Senate Commerce Committee meeting in March, Klobuchar helped pass legislation to improve the efficiency of the Surface Transportation Board and help improve rail service. After a major push from her and Senator John Thune (R-SD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report in March examining the rail service challenges in the Upper Midwest in 2013 and 2014 and the implications these issues had on the region’s agricultural sectors.
The full text of Klobuchar’s letter to Secretary Foxx is below:
Dear Secretary Foxx:
Recent railroad derailments require a renewed focus by the federal government to ensure the highest level of safety for residents living along rail routes. The sharp rise in the volume of crude oil being transported through Minnesota has meant an increase in exposure to freight rail traffic for many communities. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, five to seven unit trains of crude oil pass through Minnesota every day, carrying millions of gallons of oil. I have heard from constituents and local officials who have expressed significant concerns about the increase in crude-by-rail traffic and what it means for the safety of communities along rail routes. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recently released High-Hazard Flammable Train (HHFT) Rule represents meaningful progress, but more needs to be done to help safeguard communities along rail routes.
Following the release of the HHFT Rule, emergency responders and other stakeholders raised concerns that the HHFT Rule could have restricted the information being provided by railroad companies to State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) about what hazardous materials are being transported. I commend DOT’s recent announcement that the May 2014 Emergency Order will remain in effect and that emergency response information will continue to be regularly provided to SERCs.
I share the concerns of first responders that too much of the burden falls on them to secure critical safety information from rail carriers. As the implementation process for the Final Rule moves forward, it is critical for DOT to work collaboratively with rail carriers and first responders, including fire and emergency services personnel, to establish an information-sharing system that will ensure municipalities can effectively plan for and respond to rail related incidents.
Additionally, following train incidents in Lac Mégantic, Quebec; Aliceville, Alabama; and Casselton, North Dakota; the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) expand the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans (OSRPs) to high-hazard flammable trains. On August 1, 2014 PHMSA issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on this topic. I urge DOT to move forward as quickly as practicable to determine what changes to the current OSRP requirements would be needed to apply these requirements to unit trains carrying crude oil and if doing so would improve safety for communities along rail routes.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue that is so critical to the wellbeing of communities across Minnesota. I am committed to working with the Administration, industry partners and community stakeholders to address rail safety needs.