Multi-layered approach needed to safely move chemicals by rail – ACC

Adam Yanelli


HOUSTON (ICIS)–The American Chemistry Council (ACC) submitted a letter to US Senators holding a hearing on rail safety saying that it supports a multi-layered approach to transporting hazardous chemicals by rail and outlining the industry’s commitment to rail safety.

Chris Jahn, ACC president and CEO, said he supports the legislative intent of the Railway Safety Act of 2023 and other proposals to further improve the safety of the nation’s rail network.

Jahn said the range of measures supported by the ACC include establishing federal standards for railcar defect detectors, working to improve tank car performance, and supporting emergency responders.

The chemicals industry has shared its concerns over the levels of service provided by the nation’s Class 1 railroads for several years, but the recent derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in Ohio carrying vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) has brought a new level of attention to rail safety.

Jahn said the ACC encourages the development of federal standards for the placement and operation of railcar defect detectors, and that the requirements should be developed through a federal rulemaking process, be risk- and performance-based, and allow for continued technological progress and advancement.

Jahn noted that shippers have made significant investments in recent years to upgrade their fleets and are currently working toward a mandated replacement of tank cars used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids by 2029.

He said the ACC supports an earlier phaseout deadline for these cars based on the rail equipment industry’s tank car manufacturing and retrofit capacity.

The letter also urged improved training and flow of information for first responders.

“It is critical that emergency responders have the information, training, and resources they need to respond to a rail incident, particularly one involving hazardous materials,” Jahn said.

In addition, the ACC supports new federal standards to expand the types of hazardous material shipments that must be reported in advance to state agencies.

Jahn said the ACC also supports increasing the registration fees paid by hazardous materials shippers and carriers in order to fully fund the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s grant programs that assist emergency response planning and training.

“ACC supports a comprehensive and data-driven approach to enhance the safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail,” Jahn said.

“Safety is a shared responsibility, and shippers, rail carriers, along with the federal government, have made steady progress by working together,” he said. “But we can, and must, do more.”


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