PA Attorney General Leads Coalition for Improved Safety Measures on Railroads

TrainImage via Pixabay

PENNSYLVANIA — Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Michelle Henry is leading a coalition of 13 Attorneys General in support of a federal rule proposal. The proposal mandates that railroads provide real-time, electronic information about hazardous material loads to emergency responders.

The coalition submitted a letter on Friaday, asking the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to expand their proposed rule. They request the inclusion of a data repository for real-time “train consist information”, periodic testing of first responder notifications, and contingency plans when communications fail.

The proposed rule, known as the Hazardous Materials: FAST Act Requirements for Real-Time Train Consist Information, aims to enhance communication between railroads and emergency first responders. This initiative has gained urgency following a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border. The incident involved a train carrying hazardous materials, and the cleanup was delayed due to insufficient communication.

Attorney General Henry emphasized that while the new regulations cannot guarantee derailments won’t occur, they are crucial for enabling first responders to act swiftly and effectively. “We hope the federal administration takes our recommendations to heart as we all share a mission of keeping residents and their families safe,” she said.

In the East Palestine incident, firefighters arrived at the scene but were unaware of the train’s load and unable to identify the types of chemicals contained in the train cars for approximately 45 minutes. This delay underscores the need for real-time information sharing.

The new rule would require railroads to share safety information with first responders in real-time and electronically, keep a physical manifest of hazardous materials on the train, provide an inclusive description of the records to be kept, and send emergency response notifications to all first responders within a 10-mile radius.

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The coalition includes Attorneys General from New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Wisconsin. They urge the federal administration to consider their recommendations seriously, given the shared goal of ensuring safety for residents across the country.

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