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.
…Last week, while everyone was watching the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Trump administration reversed another Obama-era regulation intended to protect the people who live along the nation’s rail corridors and the environment…. (continued)
If you are on the Benicia Independent email list, I can pretty much be sure that your alarm bells – like mine – are going off. A sampling…
Christine Blasey Ford and others accuse Judge Kavanaugh – the #MeToo movement and an FBI investigation
A “push poll” with Benicia election meddling by outside forces
Positive and effective support for one or more local City Council candidates
The Trump administration’s alarming “rollback” on oil train braking regulations
Urgent calls to help “flip” California congressional districts from red to blue
Continuing detention of immigrant children and families at our border
Deadlines for financial contributions needed for countless important causes
A Benicia resident – a neighbor – arrested and charged as the NorCal Rapist!
…and of course, I could go on. I confess that it all leaves me somewhat at a loss, personally. We’ve been on alert since The Donald won the presidential election, vowing to stand vigilant, to resist, to move the country back into the progressive mainstream. But we’re tired. How do we cope?
I take slivers of hope from a few recent sources:
Earlier this month, Barack Obama slammed the Trump administration and addressed us all in a speech at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The line that stood out to me and continues to hold me up was, “If you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better.” And, “Better is good….Better is good.”
Making democracy work means holding on to our principles, having clarity about our principles, and then having the confidence to get in the arena and have a serious debate. And it also means appreciating that progress does not happen all at once, but when you put your shoulder to the wheel, if you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better….Better is good.
Now just yesterday, we saw a composed survivor of sexual assault and a historically intemperate and deeply suspect judicial candidate followed by two US Senators, a Democrat and a Republican, reaching a sensible compromise on the horns of the partisan dilemma in the U.S. Senate. Watching the proceedings from afar, we sat by, most of us helpless and dreading the outcome. But those who could, opted for public outrage, with signs and shouting. A few incredibly brave ones went public with their stories, and two made history confronting a Republican Senator in an elevator booth. The combined efforts of all these activists stopped the elevator ride for Brett Kavanaugh – at least for a week. Definitely NOT perfect… but BETTER.
Here in Benicia, the clearly partisan attack of a telephone “push poll” could have powerful electoral results going into our local election. We probably will never know to what degree. Yet, it’s GOOD that our City Attorney is looking into it, with a tough communication to the company that was hired to phone us with an attack on Kari Birdseye and thinly disguised promotional statements for one of her opponents. It’s good that the City’s Open Government Commission will hold a last-minute public hearing on November 3rd, giving candidates a chance to defend against hit pieces and misinformation. It’s good that there are a number of public hearings in our small town where we can go listen to and ask questions of the candidates themselves. See the schedule of forums at birdseyeforbenicia.com/candidate-forums.
Here in Benicia, I have come under personal attack for favoring one candidate, Kari Birdseye, over other credible opponents. The Solano County Democrats and Progressive Democrats have been criticized for endorsing only Kari while the Labor Council and its member unions endorse without blame. (Well, except for complaints by some of our Benicia teachers, who resent the controlling influence over their endorsement by the Labor Council.)Kari Birdseye is in my opinion far and away the most environmentally aware, progressive and highly qualified candidate for City Council. I personally hope that Christina Strawbridge comes in second. It will be great – no, GREAT – in this #MeToo year to have 3 qualified women on our City Council. But my first priority has been and remains, to secure a seat for Kari Birdseye. See more at birdseyeforbenicia.com.
Here in Benicia, there are excellent substantiated reasons why NOT to vote for City Council candidate Lionel Largaespada. His registration as a Republican aside, he stood with Valero and Texas executives and attorneys in favor of dangerous and dirty oil trains cutting over the mountains and through California to Benicia. He was paid to help defeat a 2012 California tobacco tax initiative that would have funded cancer research. His friendly outreach and community service is notable, but he is undeniably a supporter of big business, and has demonstrated that he was impervious to community activist’s efforts to educate and organize for environmental health and the safety of the community. Let’s cast our votes and hope that the Council can proceed without that kind of drag on a bright future for our beloved city.
Finally, here in Benicia our local news is disappearing. Cutbacks at the Benicia Herald and the Vallejo Times-Herald have meant that increasingly, regular citizens have no idea what is going on at City Hall. We are assuredly in a “news desert.” As of this writing, yesterday was Benicia Herald editor Nick Sestanovich’s last day, and there’s no news as yet as to his replacement. Giventhe Benicia Herald’s poor track record of owner support for staff AND the hard financial times for print media in general, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the paper close. Wait and see. (Nick’s good-bye is a poignant moment in local news.)
The Vallejo paper covers Vallejo, with only an occasional nod to Benicia news. Mostly we only see press releases issued by the city of Benicia and police and fire departments. The Times-Herald can only do so much with so few staff since Katy St. Clair was let go. (Note that both Nick and Katy went to work in Vacaville. No news desert up there.)
Where can we look for BETTER here? Not perfect, but better? Increasingly, we must rely on digital media, like The Benicia Independent, NextDoor, Facebook’s BeniciaHappenings, Patch, and Google groups like BeniciaResist! Definitely far from perfect. Let’s make those sources BETTER.
Well, if you made it through this lengthy analysis, you deserve a thanks and kudos. I’ll try to be more regular with my newsletters in the future. Nice chatting with you – let’s all make Benicia a BETTER place.
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.