Gov. Chris Christie refused to sign a bill Thursday that would provide local emergency responders with more information on the scores of trains hauling volatile crude oil through New Jersey, saying it could become a security threat.
The measure, which was supported by firefighters, labor groups and environmentalists, required rail companies hauling hazardous materials to provide emergency response and cleanup plans with the state Office of Emergency Management. The state would then have to share those plans with county and municipal emergency personnel along rail routes like the 11 Bergen County towns where millions of gallons of oil pass through every week.
The bill would also require rail companies to provide on a publicly accessible website the routes and volumes of cargoes updated on a monthly basis, an analysis of the consequences of maximum discharges and a copy of the most current discharge response, cleanup and contingency plan.
Dan Fatton, executive director of the Work Environment Council that promotes better workplace conditions, said giving community members the right to know about rail car hazards allows them an opportunity to work with emergency responders and have a plan in place in case of a derailment.
“At the end of the day, we don’t know what is moving through our communities,” he said. “We don’t know that rail companies have plans or financial ability to deal with disasters.”