Chems should nominate own employees to US rail panel - trade group

18 August 2010 21:10  [Source: ICIS news]

AUSTIN (ICIS)--US chemical producers should seek out and nominate their own employees to a US advisory panel that is examining cost-sharing for rail shipment liability risks for toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) cargoes, a trade group executive said on Wednesday.

Jennifer Gibson, vice president of government and public affairs with the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), stressed the importance of companies taking a proactive role in joining the 27-member group.

“If your company ships TIH by rail and you can spare someone, I highly urge you to send someone,” Gibson said.

Gibson spoke at the NACD’s OPSEM 2010 conference in Austin, Texas. The conference lasts through Friday.

Before the administration of President Barack Obama, Gibson said organisations such as the NACD could have been directly involved with the panel. But Gibson said her role classified her as a lobbyist and that Obama had banned lobbyists from advisory boards.

“I can’t do it, but you can,” Gibson said.

The 27-member advisory committee is to include 10 rail representatives, five chlorine and five ammonia shippers, four academic or policy experts, two insurance industry executives and one official representing tank car owners or manufacturers.

The US Surface Transportation Board (STB) is to decide final membership for the panel, which could lead to chemical producers paying liability insurance costs for rail shipments of hazmat cargoes.

According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), US railroads in 2009 carried 162.7m tonnes of chemicals, or 9.8% of all rail freight.

US railroads would rather not carry toxic cargoes such as chlorine and ammonia because of the legal liabilities they face when train accidents result in spills that cause damage, injuries or deaths.

But under US law, railroads have a “common carrier” obligation, meaning that they cannot refuse to carry a specific cargo merely because it would be inconvenient or unprofitable.

US chemical producers have long argued that railroad operators should be solely responsible for toxic spills because those accidents are the result of railroad equipment or operational failures.

Additional reporting by Joe Kamalick

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By: Ben DuBose
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