Legislation to require those transporting hazardous products by rail to develop emergency preparedness plans was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-2463) would require the owner or operator of a high-hazard train traveling in New Jersey to submit a discharge response, cleanup and contingency plan to the Department of Environmental Protection. The bill defines a high-hazard train as “any railroad locomotive propelling a railroad tank car or connection of railroad tank cars transporting 200,000 gallons or more of petroleum or petroleum products or 20,000 gallons or more of hazardous substances other than petroleum or petroleum products.”
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The plan required by the bill must include a detailed description of the planned deployment of personnel and equipment in the event of an emergency, the chain of command for the emergency response measures, an identification of all equipment available for emergency response and contact information for the train operator’s emergency response coordinators. The bill also requires each plan to include wildlife protection strategies certified by a marine biologist and an ornithologist.
The plan, which is to be renewed every five years, must comply with DEP regulations, receive approval from a licensed professional engineer and be consistent with applicable local, regional and state emergency response plans. The measure requires owners and operators to conduct an annual emergency response drill to determine the plan’s adequacy and personnel’s familiarity with the plan.
Finally, the bill would require high-hazard train owners and operators to make their routes and an analysis of the consequences of a spill publicly available online. Owners and operators also would be required offer training on how to address the dangers posed by high-hazard locomotives to local emergency services personnel serving the areas along a route.
“Requiring emergency response plans as well as drills will ensure that all authorized personnel know what to do if something goes wrong,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Involvement from rail owners and operators, experts in the scientific community and officials from all levels of government will help produce plans that keep people and the environment as safe as possible.”
“Waiting until there’s a spill and then figuring out what to do is the least efficient way to approach emergency response,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “With trains today spilling a record amount of oil, it’s more important than ever to ensure that there is no doubt about how to proceed in the event of an emergency.”
“The people of New Jersey have a right to know if a nearby oil train route puts their family at risk,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Making these routes public and making sure owners and operators are prepared for an accident will advance public safety in our state.”
The committee also advanced a bill (A-4031) to establish the 13-member “New Jersey Crude Oil by Rail Safety Task Force.” The measure, sponsored by Eustace and Vainieri Huttle, would create a task force to study the risks and impact of the transport of crude oil by rail on public health and safety and make recommendations on emergency response measures for emergency services personnel in the event of a derailment of a train carrying crude oil.
Both measures were voted out of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, of which Vainieri Huttle is vice-chair.