Brown: Citizens need protection from trains with hazardous materials

FILE - This May 6, 2015 file photo shows a line of oil tanker cars sit on the BNSF railroad tracks in Harvey, N.D. The U.S. oil industry is challenging new rules aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic accidents involving crude moved by rail. The American Petroleum Institute petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to block a requirement that railroad tank cars known to fail be phased out or upgraded. The petition filed late Monday, May 11, 2015, also challenges a requirement for more advanced braking systems on fuel-hauling trains. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)
FILE - This May 6, 2015 file photo shows a line of oil tanker cars sit on the BNSF railroad tracks in Harvey, N.D. The U.S. oil industry is challenging new rules aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic accidents involving crude moved by rail. The American Petroleum Institute petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to block a requirement that railroad tank cars known to fail be phased out or upgraded. The petition filed late Monday, May 11, 2015, also challenges a requirement for more advanced braking systems on fuel-hauling trains. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown was in Youngstown on Monday, building support for his plan to make dangerous oil trains a bit safer.

Brown, D-Ohio, started working on this issue after 27 Investigates reported on major oil train routes crossing the Mahoning Valley. These routes transport millions of gallons of explosive crude oil and gas from the Bakken Crude Oil in North Dakota to refineries across the country, including some in Pittsburgh.

Two of these routes cross through Mahoning and Columbiana counties. The senator said safer train cars are needed to keep people safe, and rail companies need to let local emergency crews know when the trains are coming through.

“The HazMat crews that come out don’t necessarily know what was on that train and what the hazardous materials are,” Brown said. “When they arrive on scene, they have got to spend time figuring out what’s in this car, what happened, instead of arriving with the knowledge and they know what kind of strategy they can put together.”

He said there have been problems all over the country as more flammable, volatile material, typically liquid material, is brought through on increasingly older tank cars.

Those older tank cars can’t handle the modern chemicals extracted by the fracking process. Youngstown Fire Chief John O’Neill agrees that action is needed.

“Mass quantities of the most dangerous materials we will see in transport. It is either toxic or highly flammable or explosive,” O’Neill said.

Train traffic is also increasing across the country to handle more and more shale crude.

27 Investigates Amanda Smith sat by a train crossing in Salem for a half hour and saw three trains go by, including one that was carrying hazardous material.

“Any time we can improve the rail cars so if there is an incident, we don’t have a release. Preparing on the front end rather than dealing with an incident after it occurs,” Mahoning County EMA director Dennis O’Hara said.

Brown plans to build more grass roots and political support, but he faces strong opposition from well-funded rail and oil lobbying groups in Washington. His bill is currently waiting for action in senate committee.

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