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Department of Homeland Security's voluntary haz-mat guidelines for railroads too soft for nation's security, opponents say

On Friday, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) officials and U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.) expressed outrage after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will issue voluntary security guidelines for hazardous materials moved via rail.

The department’s security plan is “merely a suggestion — it is nothing more than a list of voluntary measures that railroads may implement if they so choose,” said BLET officials in a prepared statement. Earlier this year, the union’s parent organization, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, detailed railroad security concerns in a reported entitled “High Alert: Workers Warn of Security Gaps on Nation’s Railroads.”

Markey, who authored legislation that would require DHS to impose additional security requirements for shipping extremely hazardous materials, such as re-routing shipments around security sensitive areas, described the department’s announcement as an “early April Fool’s joke.” His bill recently was adopted as an amendment to the Transportation Security Administration Reorganization Act of 2005 (H.R. 4439) during a DHS subcommittee markup.

“Unfortunately, this joke of a proposal has deadly serious consequences for the security of toxic chemicals transported across our nation’s rail network,” he said. “This administration is doing nothing more than asking the industry to do us a favor and please protect the public.”

Homeland Security Committee members plan to send the Bush Administration a letter expressing concern over the voluntary guidelines.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/3/2006