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More than a year after the derailment of a 15-car train carrying crude oil in Lynchburg, two U.S. senators from Virginia have introduced a bill that would impose a per-car fee on train companies that use inadequate tank cars.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine, seeks to charge $175 per car that is deemed inadequate by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The fee would provide additional training and equipment for first responders, more state railroad inspectors and pay for the relocation of railroad tracks that carry large amounts crude oil through high-risk areas.
The bill would also create a tax credit on the train car owners, who could then use that money to purchase more efficient, safer cars.
“It’s critical that we get outdated and risky tank cars off the tracks, ensure that rail cars are as safe as possible for the surrounding communities, and provide local first responders with the resources they need in the event of an accident.” Warner said in a news release introducing the bill.
Many trains travel to Yorktown at the Plains All American Pipeline crude oil rail facility, where up to 130,000 barrels are unloaded each day. Concerns have risen locally over the last year, as both trains involved in the April 2014 derailment in Lynchburg and the February derailment in Mount Carbon, W. Va were heading to Yorktown.
There’s a spot at the York County-Newport News line near the intersection of Fort Eustis Boulevard and Route 17 where crude oil could seep into the Poquoson River if a train derailment were to occur, according to York County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Shepperd.
“We have every reason to be concerned,” Shepperd said in March. “With that, what can local governments do? Essentially, very little.”
The bill from Warner and Kaine comes a few days before the Virginia Railroad Safety and Security Task Force — created by Gov. Terry McAuliffe after the train derailment in Lynchburg — released its initial report after examining rail safety and security around the state and receiving briefings from Plains All American Pipeline, the U.S. Coast Guard, state agencies, railroad officials and other industry efforts.
The report said overall, the probability of a hazardous materials incident occurring on the more-than-3,400 miles of railroad tracks in Virginia is still “relatively low.”
The task force concluded Virginia has a “robust, integrated and longstanding system to plan for, respond to and recover from hazardous materials” but could still use some improvements in railroad safety.
Among the task force’s recommendations were more track safety and incident response training, a way to identify and inventory high-priority and high-risk corridors and more frequent examinations and inspections of rail tracks and cars.
Since the formation of the task force — which includes representatives from the departments of transportation, homeland security, rail and public transportation and emergency management — the task force agencies have increased the frequency of rail inspections on high-hazard routes, delivered crude oil response training across the state and have developed additional hazardous materials response capabilities in local jurisdictions.
In March, CSX — a rail transportation company whose trains haul crude oil nationwide — donated $25,000 to one of Virginia’s Regional Hazardous Materials sites, located behind fire station 6 Seaford.