Railroads ordered to provide hazardous cargo details immediately after derailment

Railroads ordered to provide hazardous cargo details immediately after derailment

The Biden administration has tightened disclosure rules for trains carrying hazardous cargo, with railroads now required to inform local first responders about hazardous material immediately after a derailment.

The new federal requirement, announced Monday, caps significant scrutiny of the railway industry after a Norfolk Southern train released toxic chemicals into the town of East Palestine, Ohio, last year, after derailing.

Firefighters who responded to the East Palestine incident have said they had a difficult time identifying the chemicals the train was carrying because of a lack of communication from the railroad company.

Train operators will now be required to issue an emergency notification to local public safety officials following accidents with trains carrying hazardous material.

“In a hazmat incident, firefighters and first responders arriving on scene need to know what kind of hazardous materials are present so they can protect themselves and their communities,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

“This final rule will require railroads to maintain detailed, real-time information about trains carrying hazardous materials – and share this information with local emergency responders when they need it,” he added.

The rule will take effect in 30 days.

In addition to the emergency notification provision, it will also require all railroads to put together real-time information about what their trains are carrying, including what hazardous materials they are shipping and where on the train those items are located. They’re also required to include emergency response information and an emergency contact.

Last year’s train crash spilled a material known as vinyl chloride, which is used to make plastic, into the surrounding community. Short-term exposure to this substance can cause headaches, dizziness and breathing problems, while long-term exposure has been linked to cancer.

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