Open letter to Rep. Thompson, Sens. Feinstein & Harris – Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act

By Roger Straw, January 30, 2019

Dear Rep. Thompson, Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Harris:

Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

I read today that U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington 3rd District, reintroduced her 2018 bill to undo the reckless action of the Trump Administration’s Department of Transportation.  (See article from The Columbian reposted at right (or below).

Please review this important legislation,  H.R.851, the Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act(Link goes to Congress.gov.)

Recall that my city, Benicia, California, is traversed by a major Union Pacific rail line that transports hazardous materials to and from refineries in the Bay Area.

During Benicia’s  lengthy and successful 2013-2017 opposition to Valero Refinery’s “Crude by Rail” proposal, Benicia residents and officials became highly aware of the need for “Positive Train Control,” (PTC), or electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems.  This essential safety measure was initiated after a horrific crash in our state in 2008, and has suffered long delays due to railroad intransigence.  Background from the Sacramento Bee:

The federal government first mandated the PTC system for major railroads after a Metrolink passenger train engineer became distracted by text messages on his cell phone, causing the train to go through a red signal and crash head-on into a freight train. The 2008 crash killed 25.

Railroads have been slow to install the system, complaining it is complicated and costly. The federal government has repeatedly extended the deadline for railroads to have the system fully up, tested and running. The initial deadline of 2015 was first extended to the end of 2018, but that deadline, too, was extended for some railroads to 2020.

As you may be aware, last September the Trump administration gutted previously adopted rail safety regulations calling for PTC and other rail safety measures.  See background from the Associated Press and several others.

Also please be aware of an investigation initiated by Sens. Wyden and Merkley of Oregon.

Please review this important legislation, H.R.7076, the Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act and consider joining with Rep. Herrera Beutler in support.

Roger Straw
Benicia, California
The Benicia Independent

Repost from The Columbian

WA Rep. moves to reinstate rail safety rules – Trump admin rolled back Obama-era regulations last year

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has reintroduced a bill to reinstate oil train safety regulations. The rules, implemented by the Obama administration in 2015, were rolled back last year.

The regulations required trains carrying oil or other flammable materials to update air-controlled braking systems with electronic brakes. But the U.S. Department of Transportation previously determined the cost to outfit trains with new braking systems outweighed the safety benefit.

Herrera Beutler first introduced the bill, known as the Oil and Flammable Material Rail Transportation Safety Act, to bring back the safety requirements in October.

“With trains carrying hazardous materials through Southwest Washington, it is paramount we increase safety for the nearby communities,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release. “I’m committed to reversing the decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to ease this critical safety regulation, and reinstating the braking upgrade requirement for trains carrying flammable liquids.”

The Washington State Department of Ecology classifies Southwest Washington as a major oil train corridor, with hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil moving through the region each year.

“As a community that has oil trains regularly running through our commercial areas, neighborhoods and downtown, Vancouver is very supportive and appreciative of Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s efforts to reinstate the requirement that oil trains transition to the much more effective electronic pneumatic brakes,” Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said in a press release.

 

 

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