April 28, 2017

Oregon Representatives Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Communities, Establish Emergency Response Fund for Rail Accidents

For Immediate Release:  April 28, 2017

Jen Gilbreath (DeFazio), 202-225-4472
Justin Discigil (Walden), 202-225-6730

Nicole L’Esperance (Blumenauer), 202-225-4811

Maggie Rousseau (Bonamici), 202-754-1649

Oregon Representatives Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Communities, Establish Emergency Response Fund for Rail Accidents

Washington, D.C. – Today, members of Oregon’s Congressional Delegation introduced the bipartisan Community Protection and Preparedness Act (H.R.2223), legislation that creates a new trust fund to help communities prepare for accidents involving rail cars transporting flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol. The legislation was sponsored by Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and co-sponsored by Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

The Community Protection and Preparedness Act would create a trust fund to be used for emergency response and clean up after rail accidents involving flammable liquids. The fund would also be used to issue grants to help prepare and protect communities along rail lines.  In addition, the legislation would also require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to issue a final rule on oil spill response plans and information sharing for high-hazard flammable trains. It also authorizes funding for the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration to hire additional track safety specialists and instructs the Secretary of Transportation to study the effectiveness of track inspections.

“Every day, thousands of rail tank cars carrying toxic, hazardous materials crisscross the country. The communities along these train routes shouldn’t be on the hook for clean up or damages after an accident and spill occurs. This legislation would help protect and prepare communities by providing funding to help States and Native American tribes develop and carry out emergency response plans, and provide critical training for emergency responders. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, which will better protect the public and the environment, and help prepare communities both big and small,” said DeFazio.

“Safety is a top priority for Oregon communities near highly-trafficked railways. The people who live in areas like the Columbia Gorge deserve peace of mind that, if an accident occurs, the proper emergency response and protection plans are in place and ready to be implemented. Our bipartisan plan takes important steps to improve rail safety, including assessing where inspections need improvement, imposing a fee for older standard tank cars and equipping first-responders with the tools they need to protect lives and property. Rail safety is critical as we work to protect the natural treasures in our state and the people who live here. I’m proud to join my colleagues once again in support of this bill,” said Walden.

“Seeing our beautiful Columbia Gorge on fire last summer was an eye-opener for everyone on the dangers of how we transport oil and other hazardous materials. We must do more to minimize the risk of future incidents like the Mosier oil train derailment and make sure communities are better prepared to respond,” said Blumenauer.

“Since the fiery derailment in Mosier last year, Oregon residents, businesses, and communities near rail lines worry that the next oil train accident could happen in their backyard,” said Bonamici. “Oregonians deserve to be safe and feel safe from this threat. We also have a responsibility to protect Oregon’s forests, wetlands, streams, and rivers from oil spills and fires. I support this legislation because it will help remove unsafe tank cars from the tracks and make sure that our firefighters and first responders are ready and equipped to respond.”

Creating New Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to Help Communities

The Community Protection and Preparedness Act of 2017, creates a Rail Account in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, and authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to collect an annual fee of $1,500 for each outdated DOT-111 and CPC-1232 rail tank car that fails to meet the new Department of Transportation (DOT) standards that drastically improve rail tank car safety. The fees are imposed on each person who ships Class 3 flammable liquid, including crude oil and ethanol, in outdated tank cars. The fee would be applied annually, starting on October 1, 2017 for the use of tank cars the prior year.

Funds collected will be provided for the payment of removal and remediation costs and other costs, expenses, claims, and damages related to an accident or incident involving the transportation of Class 3 flammable liquids by rail. Funds can also be used by the Secretary to make grants to States and Native American tribes to develop and carry out emergency plans, develop and train regional response teams, and train emergency responders. The legislation allows the Secretary to collaborate with States and Native American tribes in preparing for an accident or incident.