Sunday, May 8, 2022

Reader Comment – Why Cover STB Issues

I had a good friend ask me the other day why I was covering Surface Transportation Board issues in my blog on chemical security. The flip answer is simple, its my blog and I cover what I want. A more helpful answer is that the current railroad service problems are a chemical security issue. In fact, it raises two separate security issues; toxic inhalation hazard chemical security and chemical facility sabotage.

TIH Transit Security

Testimony from the National Association of Chemical Distributors submitted to the docket for the recent rail service hearing included a description of the following incident with two chlorine railcars:

“Chlorine cars ECLX 8116 & PROX 28043 were sitting in Winnipeg for four days when Hawkins entered a service log with CP, pointing out the Federal Railroad Administration violation code regarding toxic by inhalation materials. Per this code, a carrier must forward each shipment of hazardous materials promptly and within 48 hours after acceptance at the originating point or receipt at any yard, transfer station, or interchange point. CP saw the service log, pushed the estimated arrival time (ETA) out another two days and closed it, stating the revised movement date. Hawkins demanded that CP reopen the log and not close it until the issue was resolved. CP did just that and the cars departed after dwelling for a total of six days. It took another three days for the cars to be placed once they arrived in the town of their final destination.”

Chlorine (or any other toxic inhalation hazard – TIH – chemical) railcars are potentially rolling chemical weapons. While railcars in transit are very hard to secure, they are difficult (from a planning and execution point of view) to attack while they are moving. When they are parked for any length of time, it becomes easier to plan and execute an effective attack. In transit delays due to train crew staffing issues, mis-coordinated deliveries resulting in hand-off issues, and general inept management of rail planning all create opportunities for attacks on these railcars. TSA surface security inspectors should be increasing their surveillance of TIH rail shipments while these service problems continue.

Facility Security Issues

These service issues pose an even larger issues for less dangerous hazardous chemical shipments. Since there are no security regulations over these chemicals in transit, the railroads are almost certainly taking even fewer efforts to ensure the security of these railcars when they are not rolling. This would make it easier to sabotage these cars with improvised explosive devices. This combined with the coordination issues being reported on deliveries of railcars to facilities would make it more likely such sabotaged railcars would be adequately inspected prior to its being moved on site.

Since these service issues have potential chemical security issues associated with them, I will continue to cover this situation.

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