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Sen. Klobuchar calls for hearing on rail safety in wake of recent derailments in North Dakota, Two Harbors

(Source: U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) press release, January 14, 2014)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today called for a hearing on rail safety in the wake of recent derailments near Casselton, North Dakota and Two Harbors, Minnesota. In a letter to Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Klobuchar said the hearing should focus on the oversight of freight rail safety and potential reforms to rail tank car standards that could help improve the safety of towns and residents living along rail routes, while also being workable for the rail industry and shippers.

"Recent incidents involving freight trains have raised concerns even among those very Americans who depend on rail for jobs, commerce and transport," Klobuchar said in the letter. "Our 21st century economy demands a 21st century transportation network that includes rail safety investments that protect communities from derailments involving hazardous materials."

The full text of the letter is below.


Dear Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune:

Thank you for your continued focus on rail transportation across the United States. I share your concerns and agree that strengthening rail safety is a critical priority. I am requesting that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hold a comprehensive oversight hearing on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) with a focus on the importance of freight rail safety.

Minnesota has a long and proud history of rail transportation and depends on freight rail for commerce. Rail continues to grow as many rural, suburban and urban economies rely on freight rail to get their goods to market. Today our nation’s freight rail network stretches 140,000 miles. Although safety has remained a critical priority, recent incidents involving freight trains have raised concerns even among those very Americans who depend on rail for jobs, commerce and transport.

Our 21st century economy demands a 21st century transportation network that includes rail safety investments that protect communities from derailments involving hazardous materials.

The Committee’s hearing should carefully consider recent incidents including the Burlington Northern Sante Fe freight train derailment and explosion near Casselton, North Dakota; derailment of a Canadian National freight train in Two Harbors, Minnesota; and the derailment
and explosion of a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway freight train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

These and other recent train incidents require a renewed focus by the Committee, and the relevant federal agencies, to ensure the safety of the towns and residents living along these routes. Chairmen Rockefeller’s and Wyden’s recent letter to the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Energy made it clear that the safety of our communities depends on the full understanding of the risks of certain rail shipments. That’s why rail tank car safety standards need to be updated and then implemented. With only about 14,000 of the 92,000 tank cars that carry hazardous materials (classified as DOT-111) meeting the latest safety standards,
PHMSA’s upcoming rulemaking must protect communities and public safety, but must also be workable for the rail industry and shippers. I am encouraged by Secretary Foxx’s announcement that updates to these safety standards will be released in the coming weeks. I am committed to working with the Committee, industry partners and community stakeholders to implement any immediate safety reforms necessary to protect the public, while we continue to address future rail safety needs across the United States.

Thank you for considering my request for a hearing on these important transportation issues that are so critical to the strength of our national and local economies.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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