CINCINNATI, OH – In Cincinnati today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for strong safety standards for railcars transporting hazardous materials through Ohio communities. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that trains carrying crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times per year for the next 20 years – causing as much as $4 billion in property damage.
“We’ve seen too many derailments of trains with unsafe cars, often carrying crude oil and other hazardous material. It’s time to put a stop to these dangerous and costly spills,” Brown said. “That’s why I introduced legislation that would help reduce risks to communities near railroad tracks by phasing-out older tank cars, providing a tax credit to help companies upgrade to newer, safer cars, and helping communities better prepare for accidents. I’m hopeful we can prevent future accidents and provide relief for communities that watch these trains roll through town each day.”
Standing alongside Hamilton County firefighters and public safety officials, Brown outlined legislation to help speed up the phase-out of older, dangerous tank cars and encourage companies to replace them with newer, safer cars. Brown was joined by Cincinnati Fire Chief Richard Braun, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, and State Representative Christie Bryant Kuhns during a press conference overlooking a Hamilton County rail yard.
Brown cosponsored legislation to protect Ohio communities by taking removing unsafe tank cars from service and giving first responders in local communities the resources they need should accidents occur. The Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2015 would build on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new regulations – finalized in May – to tighten safety standards on new and existing railcars, and update handling methods of hazardous and other materials throughout Ohio.
The bill would also provide funding to better equip communities and first responders in the event of a rail accident. It would establish a dedicated fund for clean-up costs of oil train accidents, advanced training for first responders, and provide grant money for states and cities to reroute rail tracks carrying large volumes of hazardous materials away from highly populated areas. This would be funded by a $175 per shipment fee on older tank cars with widely known safety risks that are used to ship crude oil and other hazardous materials. A one-page summary of the bill is available here.
Earlier this week, DOT announced more than $850,000 in Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grants for the state of Ohio to help develop or revise emergency plans and training activities to account for bulk transportation of energy products by rail and over the road.
In March 2015, Brown wrote to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) demanding that OMB work with the DOT to quickly finalize the new standards that were first proposed last year.
In July 2014, Brown applauded the proposed rule to increase safety standards on new and existing railcars, and update handling methods of hazardous and other liquids throughout Ohio.