PALLONE ASKS FEDERAL AGENCIES TO NOTIFY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WHEN HAZARDOUS MATERIAL IS TRANSPORTED THROUGH THEIR BORDERS
May 2, 2005
---Says Local Jurisdictions Need Heads Up---
Long Branch, NJ --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today requested that both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Transportation work together to develop a system for notifying local officials, law enforcement, and emergency planners of any rail shipments containing hazardous materials through their jurisdictions.
"New Jersey is home to a large number of industrial and other facilities that use hazardous substances, including toxic chemicals, in their manufacturing processes," Pallone wrote in letters to both Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
"These chemicals must be transported via rail tankers that travel through densely populated areas, and local officials often have no idea what is being transported and when the shipments are moving, making it much more difficult for them to respond to a potential accident or terrorist attack," Pallone continued in his letter.
Pallone, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, points to several high-profile incidents over the last couple of months involving hazardous materials carried by rail that have raised serious concerns about public safety in areas where the trains pass through population centers.
On January 6th, in Graniteville, South Carolina, a Norfolk Southern train crashed into a parked two-car train, puncturing a tanker carrying chlorine gas. The resulting spill killed nine area residents and injured more than 200 people. In June 2004, a collision of two freight trains near San Antonio, Texas released chlorine gas, killing a conductor and two nearby residents.
"These tragic accidents pale in comparison to the possible death and injury that could result from a deliberate, well-coordinated terrorist attack similar to the ones perpetrated on September 11th," Pallone continued in his letters. "That is why it is critical that law enforcement and emergency planning officials at all levels of government be informed before hazardous materials pass through municipalities, and that they know what specific substances are being carried. Such notification will allow emergency personnel to be better prepared in case an incident does occur so that first responders can take the necessary steps to minimize injury and loss of life."