Senator Casey Applauds New Rule on Hazmat Train Safety

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WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is commending the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) new rule mandating that railroads provide first responders with real-time information on hazardous materials shipments. This rule comes in response to Senator Casey’s urging and aims to protect first responders in the event of rail accidents involving hazardous materials.

The Biden Administration finalized the rule this week, shortly after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released part of its report on the Norfolk Southern disaster in East Palestine, Ohio. The catastrophic derailment had earlier spurred Senator Casey to advocate for the bipartisan Railway Safety Act, which seeks comprehensive measures to prevent such incidents.

Senator Casey expressed his concerns about the safety risks posed by inadequate information-sharing during emergencies. “Norfolk Southern’s information-sharing failure placed Pennsylvania first responders in needless, irresponsible danger,” he said. “This final rule is an important step to protect our first responders, but we need to pass legislation that protects our communities from train derailments.” He reaffirmed his commitment to pushing for the Railway Safety Act to ensure no community suffers again as Darlington Township did.

New Safety Requirements

On June 24, 2024, PHMSA announced the final rule to enhance firefighter and public safety. The rule mandates railroads to provide real-time electronic details about hazardous materials shipments to key emergency contacts like 9-1-1 call centers or emergency responder apps, such as the AskRail Mobile App, immediately after an accident or incident occurs.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the importance of this regulation for first responders. “In a hazmat incident, firefighters and first responders arriving on scene need to know what kind of hazardous materials are present so they can protect themselves and their communities,” Buttigieg stated. “As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to make our rails safer, this final rule will require railroads to maintain detailed, real-time information about trains carrying hazardous materials – and share this information with local emergency responders when they need it.”

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Detailed Information Sharing

The new rule requires railroads to generate and maintain real-time information, both in hard copy and electronically, for trains transporting hazardous materials. This information must include the quantity and specific location of these materials on the train, the train’s origin and destination, emergency response details, and a designated railroad emergency contact point.

Enhancing Rail Safety: A Vital Step Forward

This regulation could significantly enhance the safety of first responders and the communities they serve. In the event of a hazmat incident, immediate access to accurate information about the hazardous materials involved can save lives and prevent further environmental damage. By knowing what they are dealing with, first responders can take appropriate actions to contain the situation and protect themselves and the public.

Moreover, this rule represents a critical step in a broader effort to improve rail safety across the nation. The Norfolk Southern disaster highlighted the severe consequences of inadequate communication and preparedness in rail transport. By implementing these stringent information-sharing requirements, the government aims to mitigate such risks and foster a safer rail system.

In conclusion, while the new PHMSA rule marks significant progress in protecting first responders, Senator Casey’s continued advocacy for the Railway Safety Act suggests that more comprehensive measures are needed to safeguard communities from future rail disasters.

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