Open rail access critical for chems - US group

18 April 2008 21:16  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A US chemical trade group urged regulators on Friday to maintain current rules that require railroads to transport hazardous chemicals.

Railroads are seeking relief from potential liability issues stemming from the transport of hazardous chemicals. The US Surface Transportation Board (STB) is holding a public hearing on 24-25 April to examione common-carrier obligations.

Common-carrier obligations, which require railroads to be open to all customers who want to use them.

Common-carrier obligations are crucial for chemical distributors, since they rely on rail to transport chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and other so-called toxic inhalation hazards (TIH), according to a letter to the STB from the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD).

In the letter, the NACD said chlorine and ammonia are crucial products for a wide range of applications, such as water treatment, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. "The economic impact of a lack of rail service to transport these materials would be severe," the group said.

Without access to rail, distributors would rely on trucks, which are more expensive and dangerous, the group said. "Rail is the safest and most efficient mode of transportation," the NACD said in the letter.

Nonetheless, railroads are concerned about the potential liability of transporting such chemicals, the NACD said. Without relief from such potential liabilities, railroads argue that they should not be held to the common-carrier obligations.

In fact, the Surface Transportation Board said in a notice it has seen an increasing number of questions about the obligations, which is why the regulator is holding the hearings.

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645



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