Governor Kathy Hochul is urging federal regulators, Congress, and the freight rail industry to take additional actions to prevent future freight rail hazmat disasters in the wake of a toxic train derailment that occurred in East Palestine, Ohio, which has put the health and safety of residents at risk. The Governor’s call to action would create a safer hazardous material transportation industry, while also enhancing state emergency response capabilities through improved federal oversight.
Governor Hochul has called on the freight rail industry, Congress, and federal regulators to take the following actions to prevent future hazards:
- Speed up the phase-in of safer tank cars for hazardous materials before the 2029 deadline set by Congress.
- Modernize braking regulations and boost the use of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes to prevent potential rail derailments.
- Require railroads to notify state emergency response teams in advance of hazardous cars moving through their state.
- Expand state and local grants to prepare for and respond to hazmat emergencies.
“New York remains committed to leading on freight rail hazard preparedness and response, and I’m calling on our partners in the freight rail industry, Congress, and federal regulators to curb future disasters by modernizing transportation methods for hazardous materials and strengthening resources for hazard preparedness planning and response,” Hochul said.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos added that the actions outlined by the Governor will help to prioritize rail safety improvements, better protect residents and ensure the most stringent rail transportation oversight. The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the Department of Transportation also released statements supporting the Governor’s call to action.
New York State has long been a leader in freight rail hazard preparedness and response since the Lac-Megantic crash in 2013. The State created Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) that guide local, county, state, federal and industry response operations in the event of an emergency, which has served as a model for the rest of the nation. However, Hochul said that additional measures need to be taken to prevent disasters like the one in Ohio from occurring and to ensure response capabilities are sound.
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