Railroad safety has been under the microscope across the US since last July. That is when 47 people died as a runaway oil train exploded in Quebec. Also, a tanker train derailed last December in North Dakota, which caused a major explosion as the spilled fuel ignited.
Now a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota is focusing on the safety of dangerous chemicals that are transported on railroads in the state.
The lawsuit is being brought by several chemical organizations, such as the Chlorine Institute and the American Chemistry Council, against Canadian Pacific. The railroad demands that all rail cars that are hauling toxic chemicals must meet higher safety standards, starting next week.
The chemical industry disapproves of the new measures, saying that they are illegal, arbitrary and unilateral. The industry notes that these chemicals are essential to the health of the national economy, and rail movement with these products already is very safe.
According to Tom Schick, ACC’s Senior Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs, the decision by Canadian Pacific is going to have negative effects on public health in America. It also will hurt the economic growth of several sectors, including manufacturing, construction and defense.
In response, Canadian Pacific has stated that it opposes the motions of the American Chemistry Council, because the railroad is concerned about public safety. The company believes it has a moral responsibility to haul these products in as safe a manner as possible.
Railroad experts say the railroad is being proactive to protect itself from lawsuits in event of a crash.
The problem with the call for new railroad tankers that meet higher standards is – who is going to pay for it?
According to the Association of American Railroads, there are 92,000 railway tankers carrying flammable liquids in the US right now. Just 15% meet the latest safety standards.
It will take a lot of money to upgrade or replace 78,000 rail cars. We will keep an eye on how this suit is progressing and will update our readers accordingly.