WASHINGTON (March 22, 2023) — In connection with today’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on improving rail safety following the recent train derailment in East Palestine, American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Chris Jahn submitted a letter to committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell and Ranking Member Ted Cruz to outline industry’s commitment to rail safety and express support for several policy initiatives.
“ACC shares the Committee’s goal to advance transportation safety and protect public health and the environment,” Jahn wrote. “We also share the Committee’s gratitude to the emergency responders, government officials, and rail workers for their tireless efforts responding to this incident.”
The letter explains that chemicals are essential for growing food, protecting the safety of our water and food supply, producing energy, and making life-saving medicines and equipment. From farms to factories, more than 25 percent of the U.S. economy and 4.2 million jobs depend on chemistry. “We ship chemicals because the country needs chemicals to support virtually every aspect of daily life,” Jahn pointed out.
The letter acknowledges ACC’s support for the legislative intent of the Railway Safety Act of 2023 (S. 576) and other proposals to further improve the safety of the nation’s rail network.
“ACC supports a multi-layered approach to transporting hazardous materials by rail. This includes a range of measures: first, to further reduce derailments and other accidents; second, to minimize the risk a rail accident will result in the release of hazardous material; and third, to strengthen emergency response and mitigate the impacts of any hazmat incident that does occur,” Jahn wrote.
To advance rail safety, ACC supports the development of new federal policies to:
- Establish federal standards for railcar defect detectors
- Improve tank car performance
- Support emergency responders
Specifically, ACC encourages the development of federal standards for the placement and operation of railcar defect detectors. These requirements should be developed through a federal rulemaking process, be risk- and performance-based, and allow for continued technological progress and advancement.
Regarding improved tank car performance, Jahn noted that shippers have made significant investments in recent years to upgrade their fleets and are currently working toward a mandated replacement of tank cars used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids by 2029. ACC supports an earlier phaseout deadline for these cars based on the rail equipment industry’s tank car manufacturing and retrofit capacity.
Jahn also wrote, “It is critical that emergency responders have the information, training, and resources they need to respond to a rail incident, particularly one involving hazardous materials.” His letter highlights existing support for communities and local emergency responders through the CHEMTREC® and TRANSCAER® programs, which provide resources and training to respond to hazardous material transportation incidents.
ACC supports new federal standards to expand the types of hazardous material shipments that must be reported in advance to State agencies. ACC also supports increasing the registration fees paid by hazardous materials shippers and carriers in order to fully-fund the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s grant programs that assist emergency response planning and training.
The letter from Jahn concludes by stating, “ACC supports a comprehensive and data-driven approach to enhance the safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail. Safety is a shared responsibility, and shippers, rail carriers, along with the federal government, have made steady progress by working together. But we can, and must, do more.”