Senator Schumer Urges Rail Companies To Issue Warnings When Transporting Toxic Chems

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants CSX, Canadian Pacific and other rail companies to notify communities when they are transporting dangerous substances and toxic chemicals through their area, so that local officials can be prepared in case of a disaster. 

Senator Schumer, of New York, announced the request in a press release issued on Monday, citing a Canadian Pacific train derailment in September 2017, which hit an overpass in Buffalo.

Although the affected rail cars were empty at the time, Schumer points to the derailment as an opportunity for a wake-up call, as it may have resulted in a major catastrophe for the community if hazardous materials and chemicals had been spilled.

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Senator Schumer said he will push for freight carriers to expand their notification system for the shipping of hazardous materials. He will also call for enhanced realtime sharing of hazardous material information with local emergency responders. Currently, they only share such data about crude oil and highly flammable liquids.

Under Senator Schumer’s plan, freight carriers would directly notify county officials when moving hazardous chemical materials through their area.

“The September 2017 train accident in Buffalo was a warning whistle that we must heed by being better informed and better prepared to deal with rail accidents,” Senator Schumer said in the press release. “We got lucky last time, but this incident showed us that we don’t know enough about the hazardous materials that are being transported by rail through residential Upstate communities on a daily basis.”

Local leaders in Buffalo, which is a major land route crossing point into and out of Canada, joined Schumer at a press conference in the city’s Parkside neighborhood on Monday in support of the plan.

“Railcars filled with oil and other hazardous materials frequently travel through the City of Buffalo, and 75 percent of our residents live within one mile of an active rail line. It’s imperative that our local first responders receive information on the types of hazardous rail cargo being shipped through the City of Buffalo so they can be prepared to react in case of an accident,” Buffalo’s Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “I have concerns about the transport of hazardous materials and crude oil without appropriate notification, and I thank Senator Schumer for his work on this important issue.”

It is unclear whether Senator Schumer intends to file legislation seeking new regulations to enforce the request. Currently, he is only requesting that the freight companies voluntarily take up his suggested safety measures.


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