As many of you may have read, there was yet another train disaster in June, this time out in Oregon. Luckily, no one was killed, but we don't know yet, and probably will not for quite some time, the total cost of clean-up, the lost revenue due to decreased property value and the irreversible damage to the environment.
According to the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the estimated damages for an oil train derailment causing a "higher consequence event" in an area of average
population density along a train route would be $1 billion for lives lost, property ruined and the clean-up. It's worth nothing though, New Jersey's population density is more than 12 times higher
than the average population density of the nation.
Senator Weinberg has introduced a bill, S806, which would require that train owner/operators provide evidence of financial responsibility for cleaning up and removing a discharge or release of a hazardous substance, and for the removal of any damaged or disabled train.
The alternative is the state and our local governments will be on the hook for the clean-up and recovery costs. If companies can make massive profits shipping oil, they can also afford to properly insure those shipments and prove they have coverage.
As noted on the NJTV coverage of our press event this week
, we believe this bill will provide needed transparency about hazardous materials moving through our communities, but it will also enable better emergency preparedness. Of course, we hope that such a disaster never comes to pass, but trains are passing through densely populated towns, near schools, hospitals and near our homes on a regular basis. Another important piece of the legislation is that train owners/operators will be required to offer training to the emergency services personnel of every local unit having jurisdiction along the travel route
We know many of our allies will be in the statehouse today, supporting the minimum wage and open space bills, and many other worthy bills, but please also encourage your representatives to vote YES on S806, the oil train safety bill.
If you are not in the statehouse, please call, email, or tweet your support of this common sense legislation.