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Two new Senate bills address rail haz-mat safety


Norfolk Southern Corp.'s train accident last month in Graniteville, S.C., prompted a quick reaction by the Federal Railroad Administration, which issued a safety advisory calling for better switch monitoring procedures. The accident — which released hazardous materials, and killed nine and injured 500 people — has generated a fast response from Capitol Hill, too.

Earlier this week, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jon Corzine (D-NY) introduced separate bills proposing measures to improve rail haz-mat safety.

Schumer introduced S. 230, which would place age restrictions on rail cars carrying hazardous materials, double the number of safety inspectors, impose tougher penalties on safety violations and reduce the number of manual switches on the U.S. rail network.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. A House companion bill hasn't yet been introduced.

Meanwhile, Corzine introduced the Chemical Rail Security Act of 2005, which would establish federal rail-car condition guidelines, particularly for haz-mat carrying tank cars.

The bill also would require the Department of Homeland Security to identify haz-mat transportation high-risk areas where shipments can be rerouted; establish a coordinated notification system between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; require coordinated and centralized efforts to improve training for law enforcement, first responders and carriers and shippers; establish civil penalties for rail security violations; and provide whistle-blower protection for those who notify officials of violations.

The legislation will be referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation after it's assigned a bill number.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/4/2005