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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls for Investments for First Responders Following Crude Train Derailments

Baldwin Continues Advocacy for Better Resources to More Effectively Respond to Oil Train Derailments

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has called for robust investments to help Wisconsin’s first responders be better prepared for crude oil train derailments. In a letter to U.S. Senate Appropriators, Senator Baldwin noted the recent increase in oil train derailments illustrates the need for increased funding for programs that firefighters have used to prepare for the growing threat of crude oil train shipments passing through Wisconsin.

“First responders in small communities in Wisconsin have shared concerns that they feel they do not have adequate equipment, training, and resources to respond to oil train derailments,” wrote Senator Baldwin. “I hope that the Subcommittee will recognize the need for increased funding sources for fire departments and emergency managers in small communities along oil train routes to respond to this growing threat.”

According to a recent report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “In Wisconsin, tankers carrying crude oil run along the Mississippi. On a separate route, they cross the state and pass through Milwaukee. On the Mississippi, trains run from Prescott, near the Twin Cities, to the Illinois line. Burlington Northern [Santa Fe Railway Co.] hauls 29 to 39 trains of crude oil a week along the river, according to documents filed with Wisconsin Emergency Management. The second line crosses the river at La Crosse and runs through 11 Wisconsin counties, including Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha. Records show that Canadian Pacific runs seven to 11 tanker trains a week along the route.”

Senator Baldwin has previously advocated for increased support for Wisconsin’s first responders responding to oil train derailments. In February, Senator Baldwin cosponsored the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act. The RESPONSE Act would 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.

The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015, introduced last month by Senators Baldwin, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would set new standards for crude volatility, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and increase fines for violations. The bill 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.

Senator Baldwin has advocated for additional funding for the design, testing, and evaluation of safer tank cars, which was included in the bipartisan appropriations bill passed in December 2014. That legislation also provided grants for track improvements on oil train routes and first responder training for rail hazmat accidents.

Earlier this March, Senator Baldwin also called on Senate Appropriations Committee to support robust investment for a Safe Transportation of Energy Products program. Senator 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).

Senator Baldwin is a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and is committed to bringing Wisconsin values to the national conversation on moving the economy forward.

More information on Senator Baldwin’s efforts on Wisconsin rail safety here.  

An online version of the letter is available here