Repost from Transportation Today [Editor: I challenge Senators Feinstein and Harris (and Attorney General Becerra) to follow the lead of Senators Wyden and Merkley. These “positive train control” braking systems, or “electronically controlled pneumatic” (ECP) braking systems – were supposed to be in place nationwide long ago, but every time a deadline approached, the railroad lobby won a delay. Now they have Trump on their side. Some background in this 2015 CNN report, “Amtrak derailment: Could technology have prevented crash?”. – R.S.]
Lawmakers launch railway safety standards inquiry
BY DOUGLAS CLARK, OCTOBER 19, 2018
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are seeking answers from two railway company’s regarding plans to ensure trains carrying hazardous material have updated braking systems.
To do so, the Oregon senators recently forwarded correspondence to Union Pacific and BNSF in the wake of the Trump Administration’s announcement to roll back an Obama-era rule requiring the installation of electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems by 2021. The legislators noted that the guideline was instituted after multiple oil train crashes across the United States, including one in the Columbia River Gorge.
“Too often our constituents in the Pacific Northwest have seen trains carrying crude oil crashing within and around their communities,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “We have seen these trains crash near school buildings, small businesses, and homes, causing extensive damage to communities and putting our environment at risk, including sources of drinking water as well as river habitats that house endangered fish species.”
In their letter, the lawmakers inquired about how many of the railway companies’ trains carrying crude oil in Oregon and Washington have ECP brakes installed; the percentage of trains carrying crude oil through Oregon and Washington have ECP brakes; and whether the rule rollback impact purchasing of new railcars with ECP brakes.
The legislators maintain their constituents should be afforded security from potential railway transport dangers.
“Our constituents, many of whom live, work or go to school in the vicinity of rail lines that carry hazardous materials, need to know that their safety is being protected,” the legislators wrote.
MY LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE – THE CLIMATE AND OUR LOCAL ELECTION
For the first 35 years of my adult life, my priority was on peace and freedom, justice and equality under the law. That and helping folks in need. Sometime in 2007, a friend and colleague spoke convincingly to me about the planetary threat of climate change, global warming. I was skeptical, but I didn’t argue with her. I listened, and somehow, I came to understand that everything – EVERYTHING – is at stake, that creation itself is in the balance. The science is indisputable. My life since then has revolved around environmental causes, and I’ve taken seriously the mantra, “Think globally, act locally.” I’ve helped elect Benicia leaders who share my views; I’ve campaigned against bulldozing development on Seeno land; I’ve helped organize Benicians to successfully deny giant Valero’s dangerous and dirty crude by rail proposal; I’ve helped awaken Benicia to the serious need of better air monitors in and beyond the refinery. These concerns are front and center as I consider my vote for City Council this fall.
One candidate spoke out repeatedly in favor of toxic and potentially explosive oil trains: Lionel Largaespada. He’s a nice guy but he doesn’t belong in a position of power at the heart of our city.
Another candidate was a deciding vote in 2016 to stop Valero’s oil train proposal in its tracks. Christina Strawbridge will get a lot of votes for that, and she should. I hope Christina wins, but it’s hard to overlook many of her votes. She frequently voted with business-friendly and environmentally insensitive colleagues. For instance, she voted in favor of Seeno development, in favor of a nearly million-dollar give back to Valero, and in favor of a budget that discontinued employment of Benicia’s Climate Action Coordinator. The one candidate who stands out as a shepherd of the planet’s future is Kari Birdseye. Thoughtfully independent and caring, she now presides collaboratively over Benicia’s Planning Commission, where she voted in 2016 to send Valero’s oil train proposal down the tubes. Her professional work is for an award-winning environmental non-profit. She’s also a mom, with a long history of involvement in Benicia’s schools, where she has raised funds for good causes and led everyday moms and dads to unite for constructive outcomes. Those abilities will be needed in our future as we work together to build economic diversity and sustainabilityin our beautiful, family-friendly art town by the Strait. I have come to know Kari personally. She’s a straight shooter, tough and yet nurturing, open to conversation and compromise, but with eyes always peeled for the good of mother earth, the air, land and water. Kari Birdseye is my number one priority in this election. And I hope she will be yours as well. Check her out, order a yard sign, volunteer and donate at BirdsyeForBenicia.com.
Inslee statement on Trump administration’s decision to roll back crucial oil train safety regulation
September 25, 2018
“Today, the Trump administration repealed a crucial oil train safety regulation which will increase the risk posed by oil train derailments. We know all too well the horrific damage and potential loss of life that could result from the greater numbers of trains carrying crude oil through Washington and along the Columbia River. Today’s news signifies a reckless disregard for the life and property of all who live or work along the rail tracks that transport volatile Bakken crude oil.
“The Obama administration proposed thoughtful electronic braking system requirements that would help keep trains from speeding off the tracks. It is incomprehensible why this administration would pursue a biased cost-benefit analysis to make a case that this safety measure is too expensive and then dismiss such a common sense measure from further consideration. I fear the day we witness a destructive or deadly derailment that could have been prevented with readily available technology.
“This is yet one more example where this administration has abandoned its responsibility to protect our communities and left it to states to handle. We will continue to do all we can to ensure our communities are prepared and ready to respond, if necessary, and I will continue to lean on our federal partners to do the right thing and put the safety of our communities over the profits of the oil industry.”
Inslee has been advocating for stronger oil train safety measures for years. He issued a directive in 2014 directing various state agencies to conduct risk analyses and develop response plans in coordination with state and provincial partners, and has worked with legislators to implement additional inspection, safety and notification requirements. Inslee met with federal officials in June 2014 following a derailment in Mosier, Oregon, and sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation and wrote an op-ed in 2016 pleading with federal officials to pursue numerous actions, including phasing out outdated tank cars, requiring lower speeds in populated areas and implementing electronic braking requirements.