US chemical group urges Congress to reject rail safety proposal

17 May 2012 22:46  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US rail regulators should make prevention of rail accidents through technology their priority rather than just mitigating the release of toxic chemicals that may stem from such events, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said on Thursday.

Two Congress committees are working on a surface transportation bill that includes rail safety measures.

One of the proposals under consideration is the implementation of positive train control (PTC) on rail lines that carry toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemicals such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia.

PTC technology involves the installation of equipment on engines to monitor train speeds and routes to ensure control of cargo movement, especially for bulk hazardous materials. PTC is supposed to be implemented nationwide by 2015.

Proposed legislative language would shift the focus of PTC from mitigating the risk of rail accidents to mitigating the release of a TIH chemical in the event of an accident, said Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the ACC.

Jensen said the focus of the law should be prevention of accidents over mitigation of TIH releases.

ACC president Cal Dooley said in a 10 May letter to the chairmen of the two Congressional committees that Congress should “reject this proposal and instead adopt language that would authorise the Federal Railroad Administration [FRA] to consider a range of alternatives that reduce the risk of train accidents to the same degree as PTC”.

Shippers also should have a “seat at the table” when the FRA reviews plans to implement PTC, Dooley said.

Jensen said Congress may pass the surface transportation bill by the end of June.

By: Brian Ford
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