Chicago City Council approves resolution targeting crude oil train shipments

Repost from The Chicago Tribune

Chicago City Council approves resolution targeting crude oil train shipments

By Richard Wronski, September 9, 2014
Moving oil by train
Empty railroad tank cars snake their way into a storage yard. (Curtis Tate / MCT)

A joint Chicago City Council committee approved a resolution today calling on the federal government to impose more stringent restrictions on the shipments of crude oil by train than were proposed in July by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The action would put Chicago in the forefront of communities across the nation demanding tighter controls on the shipment of flammable liquids, especially crude oil trains, which are the equivalent of rolling pipelines.

In the most significant request, Chicago wants the federal government to give local municipalities the authority to impose a hazardous material transportation fee on shippers. The fee, which was not specified, would be used by the city to plan and respond to emergencies involving these shipments.

The measure, approved at a joint meeting of the finance and transportation committees, will go before the full city council Wednesday but approval was expected.

“The proceeds of such a fee would help insure that our firefighters and police officers who would answer the call for help have the necessary equipment and proper training to respond to a catastrophic railroad accident,” said Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, chairman of the finance committee and one of the resolution sponsors.

“Hopefully, our leaders in Washington will act promptly to protect millions of people in the Chicago area before, not after, a disaster strikes.”

The city’s action comes in response to the July 2013 runaway train carrying crude oil that derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying more than 100 homes and businesses.

The city is also calling for the federal restrictions to be imposed on trains carrying as few as 15 tank cars containing flammable liquids. The proposed federal rule on so-called “high-hazard flammable trains” would affect trains that carry 20 or more tank cars of flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol.

As many as 40 such trains come through Chicago and suburbs each week, the Tribune has reported.