WEC and allies, including the Professional Fire Fighters Association of NJ, have been working together for more than two years on a bill that would make communities safer from ultra-explosive crude oil trains. The Oil Train Safety Bill A2463 (S806) is scheduled for a floor vote in the NJ Assembly this Thursday, March 23, 2017.
Please contact your Assembly members and urge them to vote for community safety by voting yes on bill A2463.
Crude oil and other high-hazard trains travel through both our urban and rural communities. They are visible and easily identifiable to anyone who has ever been stuck at a railroad crossing. Each train carrying hazardous chemicals is required by the US Department of Transportation to have a placard on it identifying the material inside. Placards are an important source of information for emergency responders and railroad employees and others. However, if trains are damaged, or worse, on fire, the placards may not help our first responders. The State has refused to release information regarding how often trains travel through our communities and the volume of hazardous materials contained within, both of which are vital for emergency preparedness and response. This contradicts other states that have released the information, including our neighbor, New York. How can community members and first responders effectively prepare for an emergency if they don’t have accurate information?
S806/A2463 would give community members and emergency responders the right to know about crude oil and certain other high-hazard trains, and would also require owners or operators provide evidence of financial responsibility for cleaning up in the event of an accident. The US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has estimated damages from an oil train derailment in an area of average population to be $1 billion for lives lost, property ruined, and the clean-up costs. In a densely populated urban area, which more closely resembles many NJ communities, the estimate goes up to $5 billion in total damages.
The bill would also ensure that owners or operators of high-hazard trains have discharge response, cleanup, and contingency plans to transport certain hazardous materials by rail, and requires that the plans be filed with the State. It requires the NJ Office of Emergency Management to share information with both county and local emergency service providers having jurisdiction in communities along the routes and offer training to emergency service personnel.
As the Trump administration relaxes rules on fossil fuel extractions, we can anticipate even more high-hazard trains to be rumbling through New Jersey. It’s important that communities and first responders have the right to know in order to ensure effective emergency response planning.
Please contact your Assembly member and urge them to vote yes on A2463.