Proposed Law Would Require Rail Crews To Be Notified Of Dangerous Chemicals

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Ohio is fourth in the nation in the volume of rail freight.

Everything from agricultural and food products, to cars and chemicals are shipped by rail close to homes and businesses.

Brian Houser said that the worst part of living in the shadow of a railway yard is the noise.

After Wednesday’s Norfolk Southern train derailment and explosion in north Columbus Wednesday, Houser said that he was aware how close he and his family are to danger.

“It’s devastating,” Houser said. “I didn’t realize how bad it would get.”

More than 5,300 miles of rail lines crisscross Ohio. Coal is the largest commodity shipped from Ohio, followed by ores, farm products, metals and sand and gravel.

Ethanol is the most common chemical carried by rail in the U.S.

“So, if it moves by rail, it’s probably moving through Ohio,” said John Fonner of the Public Utilities Commission.

Fonner said that rail companies are not required to tell the government what and when they are transporting.

“Railroads are private companies, and they are contracted to work for and move the good for private companies,” Fonner said.

Democratic state Rep. Roger Hagen, a veteran railroad engineer with 41 years of experience, said that crews are notified what their trains are carrying when they arrive to take the shipment. He has proposed a bill that would require railroads to notify its crews of what their trains are carrying at least 10 hours prior to departure.

“It is incumbent upon those of us who work on the railroad to make sure that the railway is safe for the transportation of these chemicals,” Hagen said.

State regulators have argued that the fact that so much freight gets delivered in Ohio proves that railroads to a good job of policing themselves.

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