Tag Archives: Office of Rail Safety at the California Public Utilities Commission

Rail safety bill sent to CA Governor – requires minimum 2-person crews

Press Release from California State Senator Lois Wolk
[Editor:  Significant quote: “According to the CPUC, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation — rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year”  See also coverage in The Reporter, Vacaville, CA.  – RS]

Wolk rail safety bill sent to Governor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 21, 2015, Contact: Melissa Jones, (916) 651-4003 
Bill requires minimum two–person train crews

SACRAMENTO—The State Assembly voted 51-28 yesterday to approve legislation by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to protect communities along rail lines and railroad workers by requiring trains and light engines carrying freight within California to be operated with an adequate crew size. The bill now goes to the Governor.

“Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas, and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said Wolk.

“With more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger. I urge the Governor to sign this bill into law, providing greater protection to communities located along rail lines in California, and to railroad workers.”

SB 730 prohibits a freight train or light engine in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals.   It also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess civil penalties, at its discretion, against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.

The CPUC supports SB 730, stating that requiring two-person crews is a straightforward way of ensuring two qualified crew members continue to operate freight trains in California.  According to the CPUC, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation –rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year.

“Senator Wolk’s legislation helps keep us at the forefront of rail safety,” said Paul King, Deputy Director of the Office of Rail Safety for the CPUC. “Senator Wolk’s bill would ensure that freight trains continue to have the safety redundancy that a second person provides. Such redundancy is a fundamental safety principle that is evidenced in certain industries, such as using two pilots in an airplane cockpit, or requiring back-up cooling systems for nuclear reactors.”

The bill is also supported by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; California Teamsters Public Affairs Council; and United Transportation Union.

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    Rail Safety bill passes off California Senate Floor with bipartisan support

    Press Release from California Senator Lois Wolk

    Rail Safety bill passes off Senate Floor with bipartisan support

    Bill requires minimum two–person train crews

    5/11/2015 12:21 PM

    SACRAMENTO—Legislation by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to protect communities along rail lines by requiring trains and light engines carrying freight within California to be operated with an adequate crew size for public safety reasons secured passage from the Senate last Thursday on a bipartisan 23-11 vote.

    “Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas, and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said Wolk. “With more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger.”

    SB 730 prohibits a freight train or light engine in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals.   It also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission to assess civil penalties, at its discretion, against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.

    The California Public Utilities Commission supports SB 730, stating that requiring two-person crews is a straightforward way of ensuring two qualified crew members continue to operate freight trains in California.  According to the Commission, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation –rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year.

    “Senator Wolk’s legislation helps keep us at the forefront of rail safety, ” said Paul King, Deputy Director of the Office of Rail Safety for the California Public Utilities Commission. “Senator Wolk’s bill would ensure that freight trains continue to have the safety redundancy that a second person provides. Such redundancy is a fundamental safety principle that is evidenced in certain industries, such as using two pilots in an airplane cockpit, or requiring back-up cooling systems for nuclear reactors.”

    SB 730 will be heard next in the Assembly sometime in June.

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      KCRA: Joint Legislative Oversight Hearing on Transport of California Crude Oil by Rail

      Repost from KCRA 3 News
      Editor:  The 3-hour California Joint Legislative Oversight Hearing on Transport of California Crude Oil by Rail  can be viewed here.  – RS]

      Lawmakers voice concerns over oil trains in California

      Jun 19, 2014

      KCRAvideoFreightTrainFears_2014-06-19png

      SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —State lawmakers learned at a hearing Thursday that there is very little they can do to regulate the growing number of oil trains entering California, and even tracking their movements is proving difficult.

      “I almost feel like our hands in California are tied,” said Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democratic state senator from Santa Barbara, during a joint hearing of several Assembly and Senate committees.

      Watch report: State lawmakers voice concerns over oil trains

      Paul King, deputy director of the Office of Rail Safety at the California Public Utilities Commission, testified that the recently passed state budget will allow his agency to hire seven additional rail inspectors.

      However, he said public concerns about the shipments are justified.

      “The risks are very high,” he said. “These things explode when they derail with any force at all.”

      An official from the California Energy Commission told lawmakers the amount of crude oil imported into the state by rail has increased by more than 90 percent during the first four months of the year, compared to the same time last year.

      He said oil trains are headed to facilities in McClellan Park in Sacramento County and the Bay Area city of Richmond.

      He said five more terminal facilities are planned and a facility at the Port of Stockton that could receive 6,500 barrels per day was in the early stages.

      “Were there to be a derailment in the Sacramento railyard, a scant distance from here, everyone in downtown Sacramento, including the State Capitol, would be threatened,” said Assembly Member Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.

      Lawmakers also expressed concern about the environmental impact and the potential effect on drinking water if a derailment were to happen near a major waterway or reservoir.

      Jayni Hein, a U.C. Berkeley law professor testified that regulating railroads is normally the job of the federal government and that states can intervene in only limited circumstances.

      Recently, the federal government ordered rail companies to begin sharing information about oil train shipments with state and local governments.

      However, state officials testified the reports they have received so far are for shipments that have already arrived.

      “That’s unacceptable. They need that information earlier than later.  I think the public has the right to know too,” said Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Aguora Hills, who chaired the hearing.

      Juan Acosta of BNSF Railway said his company would consider sharing shipment details with state officials but wanted assurance the information will not become public.

      If it does, he said, the trains might become targets.

      “That’s the danger, a terrorist or somebody who’s misguided or who has some bad intention.  I think that’s the concern we have,” Acosta told KCRA 3.

      Jan Rein of Midtown Sacramento testified at the hearing.

      She later told KCRA 3 she lives a few blocks from the tracks and used to love to hear the trains rumble by, but not anymore.

      “I don’t want to be incinerated in my own home,” she said.

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