U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced legislation that would help protect local communities that experience dangerous oil tanker cars barreling through their backyards every day by providing an incentive for companies to phase out older, dangerous tanker cars sooner rather than later.

Schumer has long fought to get these tanker cars that carry volatile crude, which are prone to explosion in a derailment, off the rails and out of communities as soon as possible. Schumer explained that the Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2015, which Senator Schumer introduced along with Senators Wyden, Feinstein, and Merkley, would reduce risks to communities near railroad tracks by speeding up the phase-out of older tank cars and encouraging companies to replace them with newer, safer cars.

This legislation would establish a $175 fee on the oldest and most dangerous tank cars used to ship crude oil and would use the revenue from that fee to provide grants to communities for emergency preparedness, first responders, and additional inspectors. In addition, it would make available a tax credit for companies that upgrade their tank cars to the highest required safety standard within three years.

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oil-train-railWarning that the frequent railroad trains loaded with crude oil passing through the Chicago area are a “serious risk to public safety,” the City Council is calling for tighter restrictions on the shipments than federal officials proposed in July.

Council members on Tuesday also asked that the city and other municipalities be given the authority to impose a hazardous material transportation fee on shippers – money that would help cover the cost of training firefighters and supplying the equipment and foam to battle a tank car derailment and fire.

Read the complete story at the Chicago Tribune.

oil-train-railThe insurance policies that most railroads have cannot cover the costs of many crashes or derailments involving oil trains, the Department of Transportation said.

New safety rules for oil trains proposed last week would not mandate higher insurance levels than the $25 million common to the industry.

But a DOT analysis released along with the rule found that the costs of oil train disaster average about $25 million, meaning many major incidents would exceed the threshold.

Read the complete story at The Hill.

Two railroad companies want to prevent the public from getting details about oil shipments through Washington state, information the federal government ordered be given to state emergency managers after several oil-train accidents.

But restricting such information violates the state’s public-records law, so the state has not signed documents from the rail companies seeking confidentiality, said Mark Stewart, a spokesman for the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division.

Read the complete story at The Seattle Times.