The nation’s major freight railroads asked the Surface Transportation Board to institute a proceeding to address the very serious issue of transporting hazardous material around the country.
Railroads must, under federal law, transport hazardous chemicals. Railroads are the only participants in the entire chemical supply chain who are required by law to deal with hazardous chemicals, even when there are safer chemicals and safer technologies that could be used instead.
“This system is not in the public interest,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “The correct public policy should encourage those companies who make the decision to produce, transport and use dangerous chemicals to use safer alternatives when available.”
A recent report by the National Research Council noted, “the most desirable solution to preventing chemical releases is to reduce or eliminate the hazard where possible, not control it.” And safer alternatives are available in the marketplace. For example, a recent report by the Center for American Progress noted that 25 cities around the country have switched from chlorine - one of the most dangerous chemicals - to safer chemicals or new technologies for water and wastewater treatment facilities. And at least two companies - K2 Pure and Miox - have developed technology processes that eliminate the need to transport chlorine through our nation’s towns and cities.
Turning to broader issues, Hamberger noted that railroads currently are facing capacity constraints and are investing heavily to add capacity. “However, like firms in every other industry, railroads have limited resources and limited capabilities, meaning they must prioritize investments and asset utilization.
“In a capacity-constrained environment, the options and flexibility available to railroads to do this is reduced. Any evaluation of railroads’ common carrier requirements must keep this in mind.”