Minneapolis has 21 oil train safety demands

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Three members of the Minneapolis City Council introduced a resolution Tuesday that calls for railroads to improve communications and develop emergency plans for trains hauling oil and other hazardous materials. The resolution’s introduction comes just days after a pair of train derailments in Wisconsin – one carrying ethanol and other carrying oil.

Excerpts from resolution

“Minneapolis is one of the busiest rail hubs in the nation, including several hundred contiguous acres of rail activity at Northtown and Shoreham yards, and its geographic location along rail lines hauling Bakken crude from North Dakota, Tar Sands oil from Alberta, and ethanol from points to the west of Minneapolis, and, as reported by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, on average, 7 oil-carrying trains pass through Minnesota daily, with as many as six through the Twin Cities. Each train carries on average 3.3 million gallons of oil among 110 loaded cars.”

“Improvements to rail lines in Greater Minnesota have resulted in the rerouting of 11 to 23 oil trains each week through the western suburbs and Minneapolis, and the rerouted oil trains pass not only additional Minneapolis residential neighborhoods, but also through Downtown, by Target Field and Target Center, and cross the Mississippi River.”

Read the full text of the resolution at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/groups/public/@clerk/documents/webcontent/wcms1p-151409.pdf

The city’s demands

The resolution, authored by councilmembers Kevin Reich, Lisa Bender and Linea Palmisano, calls for the following actions from the railroad companies, the federal government and the Minnesota legislature:

Railroad companies should...

Develop procedures and plans for the railroads and city of Minneapolis and its partners to respond to an incident, including the worst case scenario, involving the transport of hazardous materials by train.

Establish an ongoing communication process between the railroads and first responders related to the transportation of hazardous materials, oil and ethanol.

Offer training to respond to a hazardous substance, oil or ethanol incidents as required
by Minnesota law.

Provide information pertaining to railroad bridge conditions and inspections, and remedial action plans for all railroad bridges including those that cross the Mississippi River within the city of Minneapolis.

Allow the city, to review plans for any railroad facility expansions so the city and its partners will be aware of the project and potentially have the ability to prepare to respond to an incident, and to encourage compliance with city codes and ordinances.

Reimburse the cost of the public safety and emergency management response to explosions, spills and fires resulting from the transport of hazardous materials by trains within the city.

Don’t schedule trains carrying oil, ethanol and other hazardous materials
near Target Field or Target Center during events.

Provide proof of insurance coverage and liability limits for explosions, spills and fires within the city.

Provide copies of emergency planning documents and worst case spill scenarios required under Minnesota law.

Minnesota legislature should...

Authorize funding primarily from the railroads for improvements to at-grade railroad crossings and for grade separation projects so that public safety and public safety response time is reduced.

Urge the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to expedite public disclosure of worst case scenario oil spill response plans.

The federal government should...

Require that the phase-out of the older model tank cars (DOT-111s) apply to not only high hazard flammable trains (HHFTs) but all trains with tank cars.

Require that the thermal protection standard for new and retrofitted tank cars provide first
responders adequate time to react to an incident;

Require that carriers make oil train information available to local first responders so that they are aware when such trains are traveling through their communities; and

Provide state and local officials access to inspection reports for private bridges owned by the railroads.

Approve a study to determine the feasibility of rerouting trains hauling crude oil, ethanol, and other high hazard, flammable materials away from residential areas.

Develop with state and local governments clear, timely and thorough communication protocols between railroads and local responders.

Provide additional funding to state and local governments to improve highway-rail crossings.

Continue to monitor and assess the May 1, 2015, final rule to determine if additional measures are needed to reduce the risk of transporting oil and ethanol by rail and if the rules need to address issues such as speed by geographic area (urban, rural, residential, open space).

Have the U.S. Department of Transportation, in consultation the Federal Railway Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Surface Transportation Board, , the railroads and shippers develop minimum insurance requirements for railroads transporting oil and ethanol and/or propose fees for shippers of oil and ethanol and owners of tank cars that would be held in a fund to be used to help pay cleanup costs of an incident.

Request that Federal agencies such as the Federal Railway Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Surface Transportation Board, establish safety standards specific to densely populated areas and enable local jurisdictions to be active in reviewing and enforcing those standards.