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ACC urges comprehensive approach to continue hazmat railroad safety

Americans depend on the nation's safe, reliable hazardous material transportation system, and the continuous improvement of that system requires an ongoing partnership among the American Chemistry Council (ACC), its member companies, transportation partners, emergency responders, and the government, ACC told the United States House of Representatives Railroads Subcommittee recently.

In testimony at the subcommittee's hearing on hazmat rail transportation safety, Marty Durbin, ACC's managing director of federal affairs, said, “For ACC and our member companies, safety is the starting point and the finish line.” But he added, “Today, we are concerned that the partnership is being compromised by our rail partners and we believe their proposals are driving us down the wrong track regarding hazardous materials transportation safety.”

Among ACC's concerns are the rush to judgment about tank car design changes by the American Association of Railroads Tank Car Committee, and efforts to alter basic liability rules for hazmat transportation.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Railroad Association (FRA) echoed ACC's concern about railroad operational safety. “While FRA has ordered hundreds of millions of dollars of tank car improvements and will not hesitate to do more when we have the requisite knowledge, the primary strategy for preventing catastrophic releases of hazardous materials is the prevention of accidents,” said the FRA's Joseph Boardman in testimony.

Robert Chipkevich from NTSB said, “Because of the time it will take to design and construct improved tank cars, the board believes that the most expedient and effective means to reduce the public risk from the release of highly poisonous gases in train accidents is for railroads to implement operational measures that will minimize the vulnerability of tank cars transporting these products.”

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