Washington, D.C. – Throughout 2014 and into 2015, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has advocated on behalf of Wisconsinites and called for action to improve rail safety and railroad conditions in the state.
Baldwin’s advocacy for rail safety includes:
April 4, 2014 – Baldwin writes to the Appropriations Committee to raise awareness of the increase of combustible oil traveling through the Midwest.
In the letter, Baldwin urged the committee to improve design and safety standards and increase funding for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products Fund. This funded first responder training along rail routes and increased research and inspection of rail lines.
July 17, 2014 – Baldwin calls on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a public hearing on the expansion of rail lines in the La Crosse area.
Baldwin called for the meeting on behalf of community members concerned about the rail expansion’s impact on the La Crosse River Marsh.
July, 21, 2014 – Baldwin co-sponsors the RESPONSE Act.
The RESPONSE Act would form a subcommittee under FEMA’s National Advisory Council to bring together relevant agencies, emergency responders, technical experts and the private sector for a review of training, resources, best practices and unmet needs related to emergency responders to railroad hazmat incidents.
September 18, 2014 – Baldwin writes to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration.
Baldwin was joined by U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) in writing to the U.S. Department of Transportation and Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration urging the agencies to strengthen their proposed rules on the transportation of crude oil via railroad.
September 22, 2014 – Baldwin meets with Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS).
In the meeting with local stakeholders, Baldwin viewed pictures of BNSF bridges in the La Crosse area that are in various states of disrepair.
September 30, 2014 – Baldwin urges the Federal Railroad Administration to immediately inspect the bridges in question.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) inspected the bridges the following week. Following the inspection, the FRA sent a letter to Senator Baldwin reporting the bridges are “safe for continued railroad service,” and that BNSF is adequately meeting inspection requirements.
December 4, 2014 –Baldwin meets with BNSF President and CEO Carl Ice
Senator Baldwin expressed her serious concerns with crude oil being shipped by rail on deteriorating bridges in western Wisconsin. She called on BNSF to hasten its bridge replacement.
December 13, 2014 – Baldwin supports the bipartisan Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
The bipartisan appropriations bill mandates the release of the DOT/PHMSA rule on rail cars shipping oil by January 15, 2015, two months earlier than DOT’s most recent timeline for completing the rule. The bill also includes:
- $2 million for the design, testing, and evaluation of safer oil tank rail cars. This funding will increasing the rate at which obsolete and dangerous tank cars are removed from service. Baldwin advocated for both provisions in her public comments on the DOT/PHMSA proposed rule.
- $187 million for safety and operations at the Federal Railroad Administration.$3 million for the automated track inspection program, including amounts for automated car for inspection of crude oil routes and $370,000 for five new safety inspectors at FRA.
- $10 million in grants for track improvements and crossings on routes that transport crude oil.
- $28 million for emergency preparedness grants that can be used for training for hazardous material accidents on railroads.
- $39.1 million for railroad research and development.
January 6, 2015 – Baldwin calls on the Wisconsin DNR to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the planned track expansion in La Crosse.
Senator Baldwin was joined by U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) in requesting that the Wisconsin DNR require BNSF Railway to complete an EIS prior to their planned track expansion through the City of La Crosse and along the La Crosse River Marsh. The purpose of an EIS is to examine the environmental consequences of a proposed project so that officials and the public can fully understand the impact an expansion could have on this sensitive ecosystem.
January 16, 2015 - Baldwin calls for oil rail car safety rule to be finalized.
Senator Baldwin urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to finalize a rule to increase oil tank car safety after the agencies missed their deadline. The agencies were required by law to have completed the rule by January 15, 2015.
February 24, 2015 - Baldwin joins efforts to improve support for first responders following crude train derailments.
Senator Baldwin cosponsors the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act, legislation to improve emergency preparedness and training for first responders and provide needed support to help emergency personnel better respond to hazardous incidents, such as crude oil train derailments and other hazmat situations.
March 9, 2015 – Baldwin urges President Obama to take immediate action on dangerous oil trains.
Senator Baldwin and Representative Ron Kind sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to take immediate action and issue final guidance to address oil train safety. The letter also includes Baldwin and Kind’s specific proposals to strengthen the recommended rules after recent accidents, including one in neighboring Galena, Illinois, have demonstrated the need for improvements.
March 23, 2015 - Baldwin calls on Senate Appropriations Committee to support robust investment for a Safe Transportation of Energy Products program.
Baldwin joined 20 other Senators in calling for robust investment in a Safe Transportation of Energy Products program to address increasing safety concerns related to the transportation of Bakken crude and other energy products. The Senators also called for increased funding for crude-by-rail safety efforts conducted by agencies such as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Substances Administration (PHMSA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
March 25, 2015 - Baldwin introduces new oil train safety legislation, the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act
Baldwin joined Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in introducing legislation that would set strong new safety standards for trains hauling volatile crude oil, to better protect American communities along the tracks. The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015 requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt the use of older-model tank cars that have been shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments. Baldwin and Cantwell held a press conference unveiling the oil train safety legislation.
April 29, 2015 - Baldwin submits a statement for the record as part of the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Works Committee meeting on crude-by-rail safety
The closing of Baldwin's statement: "Without our consent or even notification, Wisconsin has become one of the busiest routes for dangerous oil train traffic in the nation. While we bear all the risks and endure the sleepless nights, most of the benefits of this boom are being felt beyond Wisconsin’s borders. In fact, rail shippers in the state have been unable to get their goods to market because Wisconsin’s rails are filled with oil trains. I have worked at the federal level to limit the dangers posed by these trains, and will continue to do so. I again thank Chairman Bauman for holding this important and timely meeting, and look forward to working with all of you to keep Wisconsin’s communities safe."
May 1, 2015 - Baldwin comments on the DOT's crude-by-rail final safety rules
Baldwin stated: “Today the Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released much-anticipated final rules to update safety standards governing the transportation of crude oil by rail. While I am glad that the Administration is finally taking steps to protect our communities, I have serious concerns with these rules. Inadequate tank cars will be allowed to continue carrying volatile crude oil until 2020 and in some cases—indefinitely. While I understand concerns about allowing time for industry to adjust to new standards, I believe that tank cars without thermal protection are inappropriate for shipping crude oil, period. Congress should pass legislation that speeds up the phase out of these dangerous cars and I am hopeful that my Republican colleagues will join our effort to do so as we work to keep Wisconsin communities safe.”
May 5, 2015 - Baldwin urges USDOT to immediately strengthen the oil train disclosure rule
Baldwin was joined by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in sending a letter urging U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx to enact stronger disclosure requirements on railroads regarding shipments of highly flammable Bakken crude oil. The letter was sent on the same day as a derailment in Wells County, North Dakota, which prompted evacuation of the small town of Heimdal. It marked the fifth serious crude-by-rail accident in North America since the start of February.