Baldwin provisions improve safety, transparency, and better communication between the railroads and local communities
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has announced that House and Senate negotiators have included several rail safety reforms she has championed in a long-term, bipartisan federal transportation compromise unveiled today, ahead of Friday’s deadline.
“I have been sounding the alarm for two years on the need to put in place strong rail safety reforms,” said Senator Baldwin. “This legislation includes reforms I have been fighting for to improve safety, transparency, and better communication between the railroads and local first responders and communities, so I am proud that Congress is taking action.”
Last month, two trains carrying hazardous materials derailed in Wisconsin and Senator Baldwin called on the transportation conference committee to include her long-time efforts in their final product.
“Wisconsin first responders should be applauded for their reaction to these derailments but railroad companies need to do more. We need to strengthen communication between railroads and local communities before an accident occurs and railroads must let first responders know what is moving through their community beforehand,” Senator Baldwin said. “We also need to make railroads share infrastructure inspection reports with local elected officials. This legislation will make that happen.”
The bipartisan, five-year transportation funding extension legislation announced today includes several provisions championed by Senator Baldwin, aimed at increasing safety and transparency along Wisconsin’s oil train routes:
Transparency: Currently, railroads do not have to provide bridge inspection reports to local officials—despite the obligation of local officials to protect their citizens and ensure the soundness of local infrastructure. Senator Baldwin’s provision would require a railroad to provide local officials a public version of the most recent bridge inspection report.
Real-Time Reporting: Currently, information about hazardous materials being carried through Wisconsin communities are only available to first responders after an incident has occurred. Senator Baldwin’s provision addresses concerns raised by the first responder community who would like real-time access to information about hazmat trains entering their jurisdictions in order to better prepare. Senator Baldwin’s reform requires U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fusion Centers to provide real-time information to state and local first responders before a hazmat train arrives in their jurisdiction.
In addition, the bipartisan compromise includes provisions modeled after Senator Baldwin’s Crude-By-Rail Safety Act, which she introduced in March 2015.
Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans: The bipartisan legislation asks DOT provide a plan to implement as soon as possible rules to require railroads to improve their plans for responding to a worst-case oil discharge.
Rail Carrier Liability Study: The bipartisan bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to initiate a study on the appropriate levels of insurance for railroads carrying hazardous materials.
For more on Senator Baldwin’s advocacy for Wisconsin rail safety click here.