Baldwin Advocates for Wisconsin Rail Safety
Washington, D.C. – For years, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has been sounding the alarm and advocating on behalf of Wisconsinites to improve rail safety and railroad conditions in the state.
Baldwin’s advocacy for rail safety includes:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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."
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.”
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.
In La Crosse, Baldwin was joined by local first responders and concerned citizens to highlight the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act and the dangers faced by Wisconsin communities as volatile oil train traffic increases.
In Milwaukee, Baldwin was joined by local first responders and concerned citizens to highlight the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act and the dangers faced by Wisconsin communities as volatile oil train traffic increases.
June 25, 2015 – Baldwin supports FY 2016 Senate THUD Appropriations bill to increase funding for FRA
Baldwin, a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, supported the Senate Fiscal Year 2016 THUD Appropriations bill that provides an increase in funding for the Federal Railroad Administration over last year’s levels. It includes $288 million for rail safety and research programs including inspectors and training to help ensure the safety of passengers and local communities.
July 10, 2015 – Baldwin calls for federal inspection of Milwaukee bridge carrying oil trains
Baldwin sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration expressing concerns raised by Milwaukee citizens and elected officials over a rail bridge in the densely populated 5th Ward. Baldwin urged for the FRA to send bridge safety inspectors as quickly as possible and confirm that adequate inspection documentation has been provided. The FRA started a review of the bridge safety inspections the next week.
July 30, 2015 – Senate passes six-year six Highway Trust Fund extension with several provisions championed by Senator Baldwin aimed at increasing safety and transparency along Wisconsin’s oil train routes
Transparency: Senator Baldwin’s amendment would require that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) keep on file the most recent bridge inspection report prepared by a private railroad bridge owner and provide that report to appropriate state and local officials upon request. After hearing from concerned citizens and elected officials in Wisconsin, earlier this month Senator Baldwin sent a letter to the FRA urging more transparency as state and local seek information on bridge safety.
Real-Time Reporting: Senator Baldwin’s amendment addresses concerns raised by the first responder community who would like real-time access to information about hazmat trains entering their jurisdictions in order to better prepare. This amendment modified the bill’s original language that only required real-time hazmat train information to go to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fusion Centers, who then provide the information to local first responders only in the event of an accident, when it is less useful. Senator Baldwin’s amendment requires DHS Fusion Centers to provide the real-time information to state and local first responders at least 12 hours prior to a hazmat train arriving in their jurisdiction. The transmission must include the train’s expected time of arrival.
In addition, the Senate legislation included provisions modeled after Senator Baldwin’s Crude-By-Rail Safety Act, which she introduced in March 2015.
Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans: The Senate bill requires railroads to maintain a plan for responding to a worst-case oil discharge. This provision is similar, but not as robust as the policy included in Senator Baldwin’s Crude-By-Rail Safety Act, which would leave much of the discretion of the contents and submission of the report up to the federal regulatory agencies. The provision included in the Senate bill instead defers to the rail carriers.
Rail Carrier Liability Study: The Senate bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to initiate a study on the appropriate levels of insurance for railroads carrying hazardous materials.
“I called for an inspection of the bridge in July and I’m pleased that has happened. The Federal Railroad Administration has reviewed Canadian Pacific’s inspection reports and found the bridge satisfactory, however the fact remains that local government officials still do not have access to the inspection reports and they should...”
As U.S. House and Senate negotiators get to work on a long-term federal transportation compromise, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin called on the conference committee to include several oil train provisions she has championed to increase safety and transparency along Wisconsin’s oil train routes. A few days before, two trains carrying hazardous materials derailed in Wisconsin, making it clear that reforms are needed now more than ever.
“I have been sounding the alarm for two years on the need to put in place strong rail safety reforms. These two train derailments in Wisconsin are more evidence why Congress needs to take action on the reforms I have proposed,” said Senator Baldwin. “Today I am calling on the House and Senate conference committee to include the reforms I have proposed in the final transportation bill. We need to put in place rail reforms that provide safety, transparency, and better communication between the railroads and local first responders and communities.”
House and Senate negotiators included several rail safety reforms Senator Baldwin has championed in a long-term, bipartisan federal transportation compromise unveiled ahead of the upcoming deadline.
December 3, 2015 - Baldwin’s Rail Safety Reforms Clear Senate, Head to President’s Desk
The United States Senate voted 83-16 to approve a bipartisan, five-year transportation funding bill that includes several provisions championed by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin aimed at increasing safety and transparency along Wisconsin’s oil train routes.
“I am so grateful to the advocates, first responders, local officials, and concerned citizens who have spoken out and demanded increased transparency, communication and accountability when it comes to keeping our Wisconsin communities along oil train routes safe,” said Senator Baldwin. “I have been sounding the alarm for two years on the need to put in place strong rail safety reforms and today we have taken major action to hold railroad companies accountable and protect Wisconsin’s citizens from the catastrophic consequences of these dangerous derailments.”
Baldwin provisions include:
Transparency: Currently, railroads do not have to provide bridge inspection reports to local officials—despite the obligation of local officials to protect their citizens and ensure the soundness of local infrastructure. Senator Baldwin’s provision would require a railroad to provide local officials a public version of the most recent bridge inspection report.
Real-Time Reporting: Currently, information about hazardous materials being carried through Wisconsin communities are only available to first responders after an incident has occurred. Senator Baldwin’s provision addresses concerns raised by the first responder community who would like real-time access to information about hazmat trains entering their jurisdictions in order to better prepare. Baldwin’s reform requires U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fusion Centers to provide real-time information to state and local first responders before a hazmat train arrives in their jurisdiction.
In addition, the bipartisan compromise includes provisions modeled after Senator Baldwin’s Crude-By-Rail Safety Act, which she introduced in March 2015.
Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans: The bipartisan legislation asks DOT provide a plan to implement as soon as possible rules to require railroads to improve their plans for responding to a worst-case oil discharge.
Rail Carrier Liability Study: The bipartisan bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to initiate a study on the appropriate levels of insurance for railroads carrying hazardous materials.
February 11, 2016 - Baldwin Secures $3 Million in Railroad Safety Grants for Waukesha County
Baldwin today announced that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has been awarded $3,000,000 by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to improve safety and security for Waukesha County communities along rail lines carrying crude oil. In October, Senator Baldwin wrote a letter to US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, in support of this critical investment.
The FAST Act, bipartisan, five-year transportation funding legislation that was passed in December of 2015, included reforms aimed at increasing safety in communities along oil train routes (see above: “December 3, 2015”). Senator Baldwin wrote to DOT Secretary Foxx to follow-up on the actions required by these reforms and applaud the quick implementation by the DOT.
May 11, 2016 - Bipartisan RESPONSE Act Passes the Senate
The bipartisan Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act passed the Senate. The bill, introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), improves training and support for first responders to respond to incidents such as oil train derailments in Wisconsin and across the country.
June 15, 2016 – Senator Baldwin urged former USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and former PHSMA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez to issue an interim standard for the volatility of crude oil shipped by rail, while the agencies engaged in a multi-year effort to study the volatility of crude oil shipped by rail.
The FAST Act is a bipartisan five-year reauthorization of transportation funding that was passed in December 2015, and included several provisions Senator Baldwin authored to increase safety in communities along oil train routes.
Having two crewmembers on board trains at all times allows for quicker action in preventing accidents from occurring and improve emergency responses.