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House bill would require railroads to keep local responders in the loop on haz-mat car moves, stops


On July 9, Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) introduced the Responsible Railroads Act of 2004 (H.R. 4802), which would require railroads to provide local first responders with the location and contents of hazardous-materials tank cars either transported by rail or stored on tracks.

The bill also would require railroads to provide the information electronically though software developed by Operation Respond Institute or "similar technology." All the Class Is, and some U.S. and Canadian regionals and short lines already use Operation Respond Institute's encrypted, real-time software to list a tank car's hazardous contents and provide guidelines for responding to chemical spills, according to Meehan.

"This technology can save lives and property by providing virtually instantaneous access to freight train logs — without that information, first responders have to search for the rail car's hazmat placard, identify the chemical, and then determine how to contain the leak," he said in a prepared statement. "All of that scrambling takes valuable time that could be better spent rescuing the injured."

Each day a tank car is transported or stored in violation of the proposed law will constitute a separate violation, the bill states.

H.R. 4802 was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.