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Boston wants hazmat ban on trains rolling into city

(The following article by Dave Wedge was posted on the Boston Herald website on May 25.)

BOSTON -- Fearing a catastrophic terrorist attack or chemical leak, local and federal officials are pushing to prevent deadly toxins from rolling through the Hub on rail cars.

"In our day and age when we're trying to make the city safe from terrorist activity, I think homeland security on our rail system has to be of paramount concern," Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy said.

Following the lead of city officials in Washington, D.C., Murphy wants railroad cars hauling deadly chemicals re-routed around the city. The proposal, which cites the potential deaths of "tens of thousands" and a "catastrophic economic impact of $5 billion," would ban "ultra-hazardous" cargoes within 2 1/2 miles of Copley Square, unless they have a Boston Fire Department permit.

The proposal is similar to a law passed in the nation's capital that prohibits the most hazardous materials from being hauled through that city. The law has been appealed by the Bush administration and the rail industry who argue it is unfair and not cost-effective. Similar bans have been proposed in Baltimore, Cleveland and California.

While the courts sort out whether cities have the power to ban railroad cars from going through their neighborhoods, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Malden) has filed federal legislation to beef up rail security and ban deadly chemicals from urban areas.

"City councils across America are being compelled to take steps to address the re-routing of hazardous materials around cities because the Bush administration has failed to address this critical issue. We need a national policy," Markey said.

Fred Millar, a Washington, D.C.-based activist who helped push that city's law, says a release from a single tanker filled with chlorine would spread a 40-mile chemical cloud over a city that could kill up to 100,000 in minutes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

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