IN THE AFTERMATH OF RAIL ACCIDENTS NATIONWIDE, AND FOLLOWING BUFFALO’S 2017 ACCIDENT, SCHUMER LAUNCHES PUSH FOR FREIGHT CARRIERS TO EXPAND NOTIFICATION SYSTEM FOR SHIPMENTS OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS AND ENHANCE REALTIME SHARING OF HAZMAT INFORMATION WITH LOCAL EMERGENCY RESPONSE OPERATIONS; SENATOR SAYS UPDATES ARE CRITICAL TO EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS, FIREFIGHTER PROTECTION AND PUBLIC SAFETY
In 2014, Schumer Successfully Fought For A DOT Emergency Order Requiring Railway Companies To Notify State Governments Of Shipments Of Highly-Explosive Crude Oil; Senator Calls Rule A Major Step In The Right Direction, But Says Information Is Not Systematically Shared With Emergency Managers & First Responders; Further Action Is Imperative To Protect Communities And Local First Responders
Today, Schumer Urges Of Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX, And Other Freight Carriers To Expand Their Notification System To Include Additional Hazardous Materials Beyond Crude Oil & Highly Flammables
Schumer To Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX & Freight Carriers: 2017 Was A Clear Warning Sign To Us All; It’s Critical To Have Information On What’s Barreling Down The Tracks And Through Our Communities
Standing at Colvin Ave. in the Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPRail), CSX and other freight carriers to improve info sharing with county emergency management authorities and first responders when trains are transporting hazardous materials in their rail cars through local communities. Specifically, Senator Schumer urged better state-local coordination and proactive and detailed sharing of information about hazardous material (“HAZMAT”) trains. Schumer’s push comes after a CPRail train hit a Main Street overpass bridge in the Buffalo Parkside neighborhood on September 13, 2017. According to reports, nobody was injured or killed in the 2017 crash, as the freight cars were empty. However, Schumer explained that frequently, freight cars moving through Upstate New York neighborhoods carry highly dangerous chemical materials - for instance chlorine, ammonia, or other caustic acids and liquefied gases - and that if the circumstances had been different, the consequences of the 2017 crash could have been disastrous. Therefore, Schumer launched a two-pronged push on CPRail, CSX and other freight companies. First, Schumer called on the companies to expand their notification system to include more examples of incredibly dangerous materials, and not exclusively crude oil and highly flammable liquids, as is currently the case. Second, he called on the companies to directly notify county authorities in addition to New York State officials, to create more efficient and proactive state and local coordination and information sharing regarding expected movements of hazardous chemical materials. Schumer called the 2017 crash a major warning signal and said that better coordination and updates to the notification system would significantly improve community safety and emergency preparedness.
“The September 2017 train accident in Buffalo was a warning whistle that we must heed by being better informed and better prepared to deal with rail accidents. We got lucky last time, but this incident showed us that we don’t know enough about the hazardous materials that are being transported by rail through residential Upstate communities on a daily basis. The tracks behind me run right through the Parkside neighborhood, and a hazardous chemical spill could be disastrous,” said Senator Schumer. “So today, I’m launching a two-pronged push to improve the hazardous shipment notification system. First of all, freight and rail companies must expand their notification system to include all types of hazardous materials, and not exclusively crude oil or highly flammable material liquids. Second, better coordination between the companies, the state, and locals is paramount to public safety. The information is out there, and we need to make sure local first responders and county emergency managers have access to that data in an automatic and proactive way. These two efforts will benefit our emergency preparedness, protect first responders, and as a result, improve the safety of our communities.”
Schumer, joined by Mayor Byron Brown, County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Councilmember Joel Feroleto, County Emergency Manager Greg Butcher, Parkside neighborhood residents, and local first responders, said that it is extremely concerning that local first responders, fire departments, and other emergency personnel don’t know the exact contents of the hazardous materials transported through their communities by rail on a real-time basis, even though the rail and freight companies must report to the state. In the event of a derailment or fire, it is imperative that first responders know exactly what is on board, and what might cause a fire in order to assess how best to contain and fight it, and keep the residents living in homes just beyond the tracks safe. First responders rely on timely hazard information to determine appropriate isolation distances for residents and first responders, decide whether evacuation or shelter-in-place is appropriate, determine appropriate health and safety protocols for responders and rescuers, and decide appropriate firefighting and hazmat tactics.
"Railcars filled with oil and other hazardous materials frequently travel through the City of Buffalo, and 75 percent of our residents live within one mile of an active rail line. It's imperative that our local first responders receive information on the types of hazardous rail cargo being shipped through the City of Buffalo so they can be prepared to react in case of an accident," said Mayor of Buffalo Byron W. Brown. "I have concerns about the transport of hazardous materials and crude oil without appropriate notification, and I thank Senator Schumer for his work on this important issue."
“I fully support Senator Schumer’s plan to implement an improved notification plan for trains transporting hazardous materials. Local municipalities should be aware of potential harmful materials traveling through residential neighborhoods, and I thank Senator Schumer for taking action,” said Buffalo Common Council member Joel Feroleto.
Schumer explained that as the number of rail cars carrying hazardous materials continues to rise in the country, strengthening information sharing to ensure the safety of nearby communities is critical. Following his years of hard work, Schumer explained that in 2014, major improvements were made when the Department of Transportation (DOT) published an Emergency Order requiring railroad carriers transporting crude oil to notify each states’ State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) of their expected movements. Schumer said that while this was a major step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough, since counties and local first responders must rely on the State to access this information, and the information is not trickling down to those on the ground when a derailment occurs. Schumer stated that the scope of information sharing between railroads, states, and localities must be strengthened.
Therefore, Schumer launched a push on CPRail, CSX and other freight carriers across the nation. First, he called on the companies to expand their notification system to include additional hazardous materials, not just crude oil or highly flammable liquids. Schumer said that there are many unstable and dangerous materials transported by rail throughout Buffalo, Upstate New York, and residential neighborhoods all over the United States. Specifically, Schumer called on freight carriers to expand their list of hazardous materials to include chlorine, peroxide, explosives, radioactive waste, sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide. Schumer explained that these trains carry an inherent risk due to the volume they are able to transport, and that knowing what hazardous materials are on each train will allow for more preparation and educated, safer responses.
Second, in order to protect all communities, Schumer urged the companies and the state to achieve better information sharing by proactively and systematically notifying county governments and equivalent jurisdictions of freight cars carrying the expanded list of hazardous materials. Schumer explained that while SERC plays an essential role in rail-related emergencies, local governments must have access to this information as well. Schumer explained that county governments must be coordinated to ensure the safety of their citizens and be aware of potential risks to their communities. Schumer said that incorporating these two updates into the notification systems at CSX, CPRail, and all freight companies is a transition that will significantly heighten community safety.