Obama gets Thompson rail security and safety legislation

Repost from The Benicia Herald

Obama gets Thompson rail safety legislation

December 12, 2014 by
REP. MIKE THOMPSON'S H.R. 4681 passed the House on Thursday. File photo
REP. MIKE THOMPSON’S H.R. 4681 passed the House on Thursday. File photo

President Barack Obama is poised to sign legislation from U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, that would require security assessments of American oil refineries, including Valero Benicia Refinery, and railroad infrastructure, such as Union Pacific that has tracks through Benicia.

Austin Vevurka, Thompson’s spokesperson, said Thursday that Thompson’s legislation is part of House of Representatives Bill 4681, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.

The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHSI&A) to conduct the intelligence assessment. Once the assessment is done, the department would send the results to the House and Senate intelligence committees and supply recommendations for improvements.

Thompson, Benicia’s representative in the House, said the recommendations would help officials better protect communities surrounding refineries and railways.

“Public safety is my number-one priority,” he said, “and through enhanced reporting we can better know if threats exist and how we can fix them.” He said the law “will help make sure we’re transporting and holding crude oil and other cargo through and in our communities in a safe manner.”

He said the improved reporting required by his legislation would help officials in their assessment of the types of threats American oil refineries and railways face, so those threats can be mitigated.

This could include improvements to security at refineries or upgrades to rail infrastructure that could decrease the likelihood of derailments, he said.

Many trains transporting crude oil from the Bakken shale formation of North Dakota run through Thompson’s California District 5. He said the crude oil from that region is regarded as highly flammable. He said his legislation would increase the likelihood the crude would be transported safely.

H.R. 4681 passed the House by a vote of 325-100, and has been sent to Obama to be signed into law.