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.