Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blog Comment – Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule

Fred Millar, a rail security consultant for Friends of the Earth, posted a comment on yesterday’s blog (see: "Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule"). He voiced his objections to the rule’s failure to require carriers to route hazmat shipments around major cities. He makes the point that this "rerouting policy leaves our cities vulnerable to attacks on trains carrying hazardous rail cargoes’.

He comments that this rule allows carriers to "unilaterally select dangerous routes through or around major cities for chemical railcars" while technically an exaggeration (the FRA and TSA are supposed to review the routing decisions), he is effectively correct. Neither the FRA nor the TSA inspectors will have enough time to effectively review multiple routing analysis documents during site visits; especially considering that there are 27 factors that should be included in each analysis.

To make this rule effective, the FRA and TSA would have to employ hundreds of new inspectors for their review to have any significant effect on carrier decision making. Or use ‘third party’ inspectors like those envisioned in the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2008 (currently making its very slow way through Congress).

Fred has established a new Journal on AOL, ReRoute-Now, with a more detailed review of this issue as the inaugural entry. Since this is only peripherally a chemical facility security issue, I’ll make a more detailed reply to his comment on that site.

1 comment:

fmillar1 said...

PJ-  I welcome your analysis of this pretense of regulation, designed mainly to preempt the 11 major cities which introduced re-routing ordinances.  Check especially the parts where FRA says they will NOT "approve" routes selections.  The info will be secret from the public and most public officials, except selected few with "need to know", whom the railroads have always been able to count on to "not alarm the public".
The piling on of still more mechanisms to frustrate re-routing and accountability is truly impressive (we should talk about these in detail):
 --  no mandating railroads to cooperate with each other
 -- no standard format for reporting info and route selection
 -- already overburdened FRA safety inspectors will add review of route analysis and selections to their SAFETY jobs (NY Times won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for series showing the FRA was virtually worthless)
 -- No one should be optimistic re the results in re-routing:  check out the CNN article 4 17 08 New hazardous shipping rules slammed as weak:  

"....Boardman said it is premature to say that the rules will lead to no change in safety.
"Our concept here is all life is precious, whether it's in a rural area or an urbanized area, and what we're looking for is reducing the risks to everybody that's out there on the railroads today, and that's why we're looking at this as a holistic approach," Boardman said.
"This is about routing, not re-routing. To be very specific, this is about routing of [hazardous] material in the safest way that we can possibly do it. I don't have the answer. ... I don't think anybody has the answer yet."

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