Blog: The Fine Print / Citizen Health & Safety
Feb 25, 2015 by Katie Weatherford
UPDATE (2/25/2015): President Obama followed through on his pledge and vetoed the Keystone XL bill on Tuesday, within hours of the bill arriving at his desk.read in full
A 300-Foot High Fireball from an Exploding Bakken Oil Train: When Will New Rail Safety Standards Be Approved?
Feb 18, 2015 by Amanda Frank
UPDATE (May 1, 2015): The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released their final rule today on crude-by-rail safeguards. These rules will apply to trains carrying certain amounts of flammable liquids, including Bakken crude oil and other flammable substances like ethanol.
The rule requires all tank cars constructed after Oct. 1, 2015 to have shells that are at least 9/16th of an inch thick. Older cars that do not meet this standard must be retrofitted within the next two to 10 years, depending on car type.
The rule also requires rail companies to adopt advanced braking systems over the next six to eight years, including electronically controlled pneumatic systems (ECP) that allow train cars to brake simultaneously and decrease stopping distances. The rule sets an overall speed limit of 50 mph for oil trains and a 40 mph limit for trains passing through densely populated urban areas while carrying cars not yet meeting the new tank car standards.
Unfortunately, the rule does not require railroad companies to notify state and local officials when they are moving crude and other hazardous materials through their jurisdictions. Instead, state and local decision makers must contact railroads to ask for routing information, and the companies are required to provide officials with the industry contact person who can address their questions. This is an unnecessarily roundabout way to disclose crucial information to those charged with protecting residents and businesses from health hazards and destruction in the event of an oil train derailment or explosion.
A bill introduced yesterday by seven Senate Democrats seeks to eliminate this communication gap and grant much-needed resources to local emergency response teams. It would require railroad companies to provide real-time data on train movements and would also raise revenue for advanced training on responding to oil train accidents. The bill would also speed up the phase-out of older, more dangerous tank car models.
UPDATE (Mar. 25, 2015): Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation today that would create stronger crude-by-rail safeguards than those currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Among other things, the Cantwell-Baldwin bill would require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to limit the volatile gases in crude oil that is transported by rail. The PHMSA and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rules currently under review require thicker tank car shells but do not regulate the crude itself, which is highly volatile and can explode during accidents.
The Cantwell-Baldwin bill would also ban certain classes of older tank cars, immediately removing 37,700 unsafe cars from use. It requires railroad companies to alert state and local emergency response officials when moving crude through communities and significantly increases fines for violations.
On Presidents' Day, a train carrying volatile crude oil derailed in Fayette County, West Virginia, igniting several railcars and creating a fireball 300 feet high. While no one was seriously injured, the incident is a stark reminder of the need for stronger safeguards to protect communities near the tracks that transport crude oil.read in full
Feb 17, 2015 by Guest Contributor
The numbers are startling. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.8 million more children in the U.S. were diagnosed with developmental disabilities between 2006 and 2008 than a decade earlier. During this time, the prevalence of autism climbed nearly 300 percent, while that of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder increased 33 percent. CDC figures also show that 10 to 15 percent of all babies born in the U.S. have some type of neurobehavorial development disorder. Still more are affected by neurological disorders that don’t rise to the level of clinical diagnosis.read in full
Feb 5, 2015 by Amanda Frank
Target and Walmart made headlines in 2013 when both companies pledged to phase-out certain hazardous chemicals from their supply chains, good news for the millions of Americans who rely on these stores for household and personal care products. But discount retailers known as "dollar stores" have yet to follow suit, putting the communities they serve at risk of toxic chemical exposures.read in full
Jan 29, 2015 by Amanda Frank
Drilling companies nationwide have been keeping the identities of many fracking chemicals a secret by simply stamping them "confidential business information," also known as "trade secrets." In Wyoming, regulators had long accepted these claims with little validation, and residents were left in the dark about the toxic chemicals being injected into the ground near their homes, schools, and water supplies. A recent settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by public interest groups, including the Center for Effective Government, will change this practice.read in full
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Bill Promotes Big Industry Interests in the Guise of Helping Small Business
Jan 27, 2015 by Ronald White
Under the cynical guise of helping small businesses, on Jan. 27, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up, and the House will soon likely pass, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015 (SBRFIA, H.R. 527).read in full
Jan 27, 2015 by Amanda Frank
Data from the Toxics Release Inventory released last month reveals significant increases in toxic pollution across the country in 2013. Toxins released from industrial facilities into surrounding communities increased by more than 500 million pounds, or 14 percent, between 2012 and 2013. This is the most significant increase in toxins in years. (See our Right-to-Know Network (RTK NET) website).read in full
Jan 26, 2015 by Guest Blogger
When Sherry Gobble gets anxiety, she’s generally not thinking about work or money. She’s thinking about something most Americans rarely consider: her tap water.read in full
Jan 23, 2015 by Katie Weatherford
If passed, the REINS Act would require congressional approval of all major rules, potentially endangering the most important safeguards to our health, safety, environment, and economy.read in full
Jan 22, 2015 by Amanda Frank
On Jan. 17, an oil pipeline leaked an estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil along the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana. The incident contaminated the town's municipal water system, highlighting the risk of building pipelines near water sources and elevating concerns about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.read in full