TRENTON –A public safety 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, and also mandate that the DEP request periodic bridge inspections from the federal DOT was cleared by the Senate Transportation Committee today.
“The number of trains carrying highly flammable Bakken crude through New Jersey continues to grow,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “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 strikes.”
The bill, S-991, would require the owner or operator of a high-risk train to have and submit to the DEP within six months of effective date of this legislation 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. It would further require the operator to, 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 any discharge.
Additionally, it would require that the response plan provide for simulated emergency response drills. The contingency plan would need to be renewed every five years with the DEP and 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.
Tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil are transported by rail through New Jersey every day.