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DHS issues rule to strengthen rail security

(The following appeared on the Progressive Railroading website on November 19.)

Last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule aimed at strengthening the security of the nation’s freight and passenger railroads and reducing risks associated with transporting security-sensitive materials.

The “Rail Security” rule will require freight and passenger railroads to designate rail security coordinators and report security concerns to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The rule also will codify TSA’s broad inspection authority.

Freight railroads will need to ensure a “positive hand-off” of security-sensitive materials and establish security protocols for transfers of rail cars carrying the materials between receivers — especially those located in high-threat urban areas — chemical shippers and other railroads. Freight railroads also will be required to secure car transfer areas and report shipment locations to TSA.

“By striking a sensible balance of security guidelines with certain regulatory requirements, we’re enabling the rail and chemical industries to be stronger partners,” said DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in a prepared statement. “The results are sound security measures without excessively burdening owners and operators.”

In conjunction with the freight-rail industry, DHS and TSA recently developed security action items to reduce risks associated with the transportation of Poisonous by Inhalation (PIH) materials, such as chlorine and anhydrous ammonia. So far, the measures have reduced PIH shipment risks more than 60 percent — well above a target reduction of 50 percent, DHS said.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

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