WASHINGTON — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, addressing the nation’s mayors, today proposed a national hazardous-freight fee be assessed on rail cars carrying dangerous substances.
He said he was motivated by rail disasters including the one last summer that devastated the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people. Emanuel compared the aftermath to the disaster to what the German city of Dresden looked like after the Allied firebombing during World War II.
Emanuel spoke at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is holding its winter meeting through Friday. He addressed the conference’s Transportation and Communications Committee after the panel heard from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Emanuel said the fee would go to three areas: to invest in rail safety, to fund the costs borne by first responders and to pay for a reinsurance policy that would help communities hit by rail disasters get back on their feet.
“If something, God forbid, happened in one of our cities,” police and fire would be there immediately and FEMA would arrive many hours later, he said.
Emanuel said his proposal was supported by the mayors of Peoria, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Madison, Wis.
In another development today, the National Transportation Safety Board – which for decades has warned of dangerous flaws in the design of the DOT-111 tank cars that transport crude oil and other flammable materials – joined Canada’s Transportation Safety Board to issue recommendations to further regulate the transportation of crude oil by rail.
“The large-scale shipment of crude oil by rail simply didn’t exist ten years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a news release. “While this energy boom is good for business, the people and the environment along rail corridors must be protected from harm.”
The recommendations call on the Federal Railroad Administration and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to reroute crude oil shipments around populated and sensitive area, establish an audit program to ensure railroads have adequate resources in place to respond to “worst case discharges” of an entire trail load of oil and to make sure shippers and railroads are properly classifying the materials they are transporting.
“If unit trains of flammable liquids are going to be part of our nation’s energy future, we need to make sure the hazardous materials classification is accurate, the route is well planned, and the tank cars are as robust as possible,” Hersman said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun