Tuesday, June 15, 2010

HR 5478 Introduced

Last week Rep Blumenauer (D, OR) introduced HR 5478, the Green Railcar Enhancement Act of 2010. This bill would provide a tax credit for rebuilding or replacing railcars that increase fleet capacity or fuel efficiency. This 25% credit is an example of the tax code being used to effect a social goal; in this case presumably decreasing the amount of greenhouse gasses produced in the transportation of goods in commerce. TIH Protection I think that environmental protection could certainly be extended to include protecting the environment from release of toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemicals. Human beings are not the only ones that are adversely affected when these extremely hazardous chemicals are released into the environment in the event of a rail car accident. Back in January of last year the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration published their final rule on Improving the Safety of Railroad Tank Car Transportation of Hazardous Materials. One of the provisions of that rule was the upgrading of the TIH railcar fleet with railcars meeting an interim railcar design that would reduce the risk of a TIH release in a railcar collision or derail. Unfortunately, it would seem that the recent economic downturn reduced the rate at which rail cars will be replaced with the safer versions. I would like to suggest that adding a provision to this bill that would provide the same credit for replacing “pre-1989 non-normalized steel cars” identified in that rule as being the cars most needing replacement (74 FR 1778) would be in keeping with the general purpose of upgrading the railcar fleet with ‘greener’ alternatives.

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