WASHINGTON, D.C. – After months of delay, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today welcomed the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) final rule to improve the safety of transportation of crude and other hazardous materials by rail. The final rule follows a letter from Brown in March directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work with DOT to quickly finalize these rules.

“This long overdue action will increase safety standards for the transportation of hazardous materials, like crude oil, by rail” said Brown. “So many communities have seen what happens when these trains derail and explode. With these rules, I’m hopeful we can prevent future accidents and provide relief for communities that watch these trains roll through town each day.”

This week, Brown introduced legislation to protect Ohio communities by getting unsafe oil trains off the tracks and giving first responders in local communities the resources they need if accidents do happen.

The Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2015 – introduced by Brown and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mark Warner (D-VA) – would reduce risks to communities near railroad tracks by speeding up the phase-out of older tank cars and encouraging companies to replace them with newer, safer cars. The bill also would provide a tax credit to companies that upgrade the newer cars to the highest required safety standard.  

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 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 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.

In March, Brown wrote to the Office of Management and Budget 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 materials throughout Ohio.

Last year, the Dayton Daily News reported that Ohio ranks third in the nation for the number of serious incidents involving hazardous material release. In total, over the past nine years, more than 12,800 have been involved in a hazardous material leak – causing more than $38 million in damages and causing more than 3,700 Ohioans to evacuate affected areas.