Weinberg Bill to Require Operators of ‘High-Hazard Trains’ to Have Emergency Response Plan in Place Advances

Weinberg

TRENTON –A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would require owners or operators of “high-hazard trains” to submit to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) a discharge response, cleanup and contingency plan was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“The number of trains carrying highly flammable Bakken crude through New Jersey continues to grow,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “During the Christie administration, we could not make public information about the frequency of these trains to local first-responders despite the danger of a catastrophic event. This bill will not curtail the number of trains carrying crude through our state but would at least require the operators or owners of these trains to have a plan in place to deal with the unintended discharge of these environmentally hazardous substances into our communities. If we cannot stop the flow of these trains that pose great potential danger to our communities, we must ensure that there are plans in place that will limit the damage to our environment and to the lives of New Jersey residents if disaster struck.”

The bill, S-1883Sca, would require the owner or operator of a high-risk train to have a detailed discharge response plan that would include a description of the emergency response measures employed by trained personnel employed by the owner or operator of the high-hazard train, identify all equipment available for emergency response and cleanup, and identify the priorities for the deployment of trained personnel to protect residential and environmentally sensitive areas that would be impacted by a discharge.

Additionally, it would require that the plan provides for simulated emergency response drills. The bill also would require that the contingency plan be renewed every five years with the DEP and that the owners or operators of the high-hazard trains would be required to make available online the routes and volumes of cargoes updated on a monthly basis to the extent that the release of that information does not conflict with federal law.

The DEP could assess violators a penalty of $25,000 for each violation.

An estimated 30 million gallons of crude oil is transported per week by rail through New Jersey.

The bill was approved by the committee by a vote of 8-4 and advances to the full Senate for further consideration.