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Fight Rail Congestion vs. Canadian National


Exerpts from the Rachel Maddow Show
RE:Tanker Safety






Our Mission

To educate citizens about Canadian National Railway's (CN) acquisition of the EJ&E Railway, insure that CN complies fully with federally ordered mitigation requirements; and encourage opportunities for impacted citizens to unite in defending community interests.


September 29, 2014


Coverage Gap That Excludes 40% of Hazmat Ignores Grave Public and Environmental Safety Risks.

CHICAGO - In response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released by the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on August 1, the Village of Barrington, IL and the TRAC rail safety coalition jointly submitted comments today telling federal regulators that the proposed rules meant to enhance the safety of transporting explosive and flammable hazmat by rail are inadequate. The fundamental problem in the proposed rules is that federal regulators plan to allow 40% of flammable hazmat to continue to be transported in the existing fleet of rail tank cars that lack the structural integrity to withstand an accident or derailment.

In the comments submitted by TRAC, regulators are warned that the agency's focus on barring these deficient tank cars from liquid hazmat service can't be limited just to "high hazard flammable trains" or HHFTs because these commodities pose a public safety risk and environmental hazard in a spill involving just one tank car. As proposed by PHMSA, any new safety rules as detailed in the NPRM would only be applied to trains carrying 20 or more tank cars of Class 3 flammable liquids.

Karen Darch, Barrington Village President and TRAC Co-Chair asserts, "It makes no sense for regulators to allow a safety gap to continue that industry can drive a freight train through. The robust Option 1 tank car that PHMSA is proposing for HHFTs will greatly enhance public safety, but eliminating a large portion of Class 3 hazmat from coverage leaves the public at risk, and may also be an invitation to industry to adjust operational practices to evade new safety rules."

"PHMSA has certainly moved in the right direction in that it now clearly acknowledges that the existing fleet of tank cars used in hazmat service are likely to puncture in an accident," notes Tom Weisner, Aurora Mayor and TRAC. "However, while the agency's stated objectives are sound, they remain severely compromised by the apparent effort to indulge industry's economic concerns. Safety should rule here, not profits."

In addition to requesting an aggressive fleet replacement schedule for all tank cars used in Class 3 flammable service, TRAC's comments address the following issues:
  • PHMSA must require the proposed Option 1 DOT-117 performance tank car standard (that includes ECP braking technology) for all tank cars used to transport Class 3 liquids of PG I, II and III hazardous materials - no exceptions.
  • The existing fleet of deficient tank cars should not be transferred to Alberta, Canada to be used in tar/oil sands service.
  • Proper classification and characterization of mined liquid and gas is essential and mandates for testing procedures should not be delayed to allow industry to define what it prefers to do.
  • Rail routing protocols should be expanded to include routes where any Class 3 hazmat is transported regularly both as a means of involving local communities in emergency planning and to insure that railroads make necessary investments in rail and wheel defect detection infrastructure.
  • The requirement that railroads have to provide response plans to State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) when transporting 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil in a single train must be expanded to include the rail shipment of all Class 3 hazmat commodities in an amount of 42,000 gallons or more traveling on a single train. Additionally, the railroads must consult with local communities that are at risk in developing these plans.
  • Because the imposition of speed restrictions may be counterproductive to public safety and speed hasn't been a factor in any mainline accident (except for the runaway train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec), TRAC urges caution on adopting a one-size-fits-all speed regulation.

To view a copy of the Barrington/TRAC NPRM filing to PHMSA, Click Here.

September 9, 2014

In 2011, after a fatal ethanol train derailment in Cherry Valley, IL, the rail industry began the petition process before the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) seeking improved performance standards for new rail tanks cars carrying liquid hazmat in recognition that the current "workhorse" tank car of the fleet (the DOT-111) has a high tendency to puncture in accidents. These efforts began two decades after the National Transportation Safety Board had warned industry and regulators that there were significant safety-related flaws in this tank car's design. In 2012, the Illinois TRAC Coalition also petitioned PHMSA for improved standards to cover both new and existing tank cars.

continue reading....

PHMSA Sample Resolution

July 24, 2014


The following statement has been issued by TRAC Coalition Co-Chairs Karen Darch (Village President, Barrington, IL) and Tom Weisner (Mayor, Aurora, IL) representing the interests of communities in the greater Chicagoland area in response to the proposed USDOT rules meant to protect public safety in the rail shipment of crude oil, ethanol, and petroleum mixes.

"We have just begun to read through the proposed rules that exceed 200 pages, and as we've found with this issue, the devil is always in the details," says Karen Darch.

TRAC has been focused on the need to improve tank car standards - specifically eliminating the use of the deficient DOT-111 tank car for any flammable hazmat service. Today's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) provides three sets of options on enhanced tank car standards. "TRAC is pleased to see that one option is even more robust than the 2014 standards outlined by the rail industry," states Tom Weisner. "We need to examine these options closely, and believe it's vital that communities across the country weigh in during the comment period and demand that the new rules come down on the side of maximum protection for the public."

TRAC cautions that the enhanced specifications for tank cars and a retrofit of the existing fleet to meet new standards will apply only to crude and ethanol shipped in what the USDOT is calling "High-Hazard Flammable Trains"-- defined as those trains consisting of more than 20 tank cars containing these commodities. Excluding trains with fewer than 20 cars of this highly flammable hazmat would be of grave concern to TRAC. "The accidents detailed in nine of the 13 incidents summarized by USDOT in the proposed rulemaking involved the breach of fewer than 20 tank cars," Darch says. "Given how long the public has waited for comprehensive tank car safety enhancements, allowing the continued use of even one DOT-111 to transport flammable hazmat is a major loophole."

September 12, 2013

TRAC & Barrington Take the Lead on Providing the Local Government Perspective on Rail Safety Matters Following the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into a CN ethanol train derailment near Rockford in 2009, the TRAC Co-Chairs were alerted to the dangers posed by the DOT-111 tank car that is used by the rail industry to transport flammable hazmat like ethanol and crude oil throughout North America. In a nutshell, the NTSB has warned regulators since 1991, that the DOT-111 has a high incidence of rupturing when involved in accidents and derailments. That NTSB investigation launched TRAC and Barrington into action. Since spring of 2012, we've taken the lead on behalf of local governments in urging federal regulatory action to correct the problem. The federal government has now officially begun the regulatory process on the issue and is seeking public input by November 5, 2013.

For more information, please review the following documents and resources:
  • Our April 3, 2012 petition to the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) seeking a rulemaking to correct the problem with DOT-111 tank cars and the mandate of electronic distribution to emergency responders of train consists when a rail accident occurs.

  • The July 30, 2013 OpEd piece in the Wall Street Journal by TRAC co-chairs Karen Darch & Tom Weisner urging federal regulators to act on the DOT-111 tank car.

  • The August 28, 2013 oral and written comments of TRAC Co-Chair Karen Darch at a public joint meeting of PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on rail safety issues.

  • The September 5, 2013 investigative report on the DOT-111 tank car in the "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams"

  • An issue summary that TRAC is sharing with local governments about the issue as well as a model resolution we are asking that local governments pass and submit to PHMSA prior to the November 5 comments deadline in the PHMSA rulemaking process.

July 16, 2012:

On July 16, 2012 TRAC sent a letter to the Surface Transportation Board outlining endemic problems with the June 2012 audit of CN’s operations on the EJ&E. more

April 3, 2012:



February 14, 2012:

National Transportation Safety Board Hearing Highlights Lack of Safety Culture at CN and Prevalent Use of Flawed Rail Tank Cars to Transport more

October 14, 2011:

Barrington Files STB Petition Seeking Board Ruling Requiring Substantial CN Funding of a Grade Separation at Northwest more


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