Railroads and Indians are steamed at the FCC
(Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, October 24, 2013)
NEW YORK — On Sept. 12, 2008, a Los Angeles commuter train collided with an oncoming freight train, killing 25 people and injuring more than 100. Federal investigators found the operator was texting while driving the train and ran a red signal — prompting Congress to pass a law requiring railroads that operate in the U.S. to install a warning system on all routes that carry passengers or certain hazardous materials. The technology will flash speed restrictions and approaching signals to the operator; it can also automatically slow or stop a speeding train. The government has given railroads until December 2015 to put transmitters on 23,000 locomotives and build antenna towers along 60,000 miles of track—a third of the country’s rail network. It’s estimated the massive undertaking will cost the industry $13.2 billion, and railroads face tens of thousands of dollars in fines for missing the deadline.
Yet in May construction abruptly halted when the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the antennas, called “positive train control towers,” said railroads must first seek clearance from American Indian tribes — for fear that some of the structures might disturb sacred ground. The nation’s 565 tribes have sovereign powers, and among them is the right to review the construction of FCC-regulated towers anywhere in the U.S. that may affect cultural and historic sites, even outside tribal lands. Apparently neither the authors of the law nor the FCC realized until early this year that the towers were subject to tribal review. Now railroads, which have already erected more than 8,000 antennas, have been told that Indian tribes must approve each of the remaining 22,000.
Full story: Bloomberg Business Week
Friday, October 25, 2013
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