Press-Republican

In My Opinion

March 4, 2014

In My Opinion: Rail companies must take action

I write to commend emergency response officials in Essex County for taking a proactive approach to the increasing number of freight trains carrying crude oil through our communities on the Canadian Pacific line, as described in the Feb, 23 article, “Essex County developing disaster-response plans as rail traffic grows.”

It is critical that local officials, first responders and hazmat teams possess accurate information about future shipments of crude oil and other hazardous materials, and have the appropriate resources, training and contingency plans in place to minimize the risk of accidents and ensure public safety.

Since the aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, accident in July of last year, I have spoken with a number of concerned constituents and elected officials in Clinton and Essex counties and in St. Lawrence County, through which a CSX line transports freight from Montreal to Syracuse.

Immediately following this incident, and through a lengthy series of written correspondence, phone calls and meetings, I conducted extensive research on this issue and demanded that federal agencies and railroad companies alike do more to prevent freight accidents and mitigate their impacts when they do occur.

Specifically, I wrote to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in October 2013 and again in January 2014, with my Republican colleague from North Dakota, Rep. Kevin Cramer.

Just last week, I joined several of my colleagues from Northern New York in writing to Secretary of Transportation Foxx, urging the better alignment of safety standards to the risk associated with the rail transport of crude oil.

I have also engaged the National Transportation Safety Board, which is an independent federal agency charged with investigating transportation accidents and making recommendations to prevent them in the future.

I have been in touch with a number of elected officials in the region in order to update them on my progress, which includes the voluntary actions recently announced by the American Association of Railroads, which represents the largest freight railroads in the United States, including CP and CSX, to increase track inspections and decrease speed limits in populated areas.

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In My Opinion