Welcome to Transportation Law Today

Managed by Paul J. Loftus, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Transportation Law Today provides professionals in the rail, transit, inland maritime, and trucking industries with current news and analysis of laws, rulings, and regulatory policies.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Rail Safety Advisory Committee Holds Emergency Meeting on Haz Mat

Yesterday, the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), met to consider additional regulatory or other safety measures in response to the Lac-Megantic, Quebec incident in June. The emergency meeting follows the issuance of an Emergency Order and Safety Advisory on August 2, 2013 - see here for my prior post on those issues, and links to the Order and Safety Advisory.

The attached press release from the FRA states the RSAC has accepted four tasks: appropriate crew size, requirements for securing trains, operational testing of employees to ensure compliance with rules, and issues relating to the operational control and handling of hazardous materials in transportation. The RSAC will now establish working groups to address the tasks which will propose recommendations to FRA in April 2014.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

FRA Follows Suit with Emergency Order on Haz Mat Train Operations

Following the emergency rules issued by Transport Canada ( see my 7/30/13 post here ) the FRA issued an Emergency Order on Friday with similar requirements.

The FRA Emergency Order and Safety Advisory calling for as yet to be scheduled Rail Safety Advisory Committee meeting, are effective immediately and are in direct response to the Lac Megantic disaster in Quebec. Though the FRA Order notes that neither Transport Canada nor the Canadian Transportation Safety Board has determined a cause of the Lac Megantic derailment, the FRA Order clearly focuses on the securement of unattended trains. The FRA Order prohibits haz mat trains from being left unattended outside of yards or terminals unless authorized, and requires communication between train crews and dispatchers about how trains are secured (including tonnage and number of hand brakes applied) if a train is left unattended.

The FRA Order also requires railroads to have qualified employees inspect rail equipment which emergency responders have been on before leaving a train unattended, which is a nod toward the theory that actions of firefighters had some role in the Lac Megantic breakaway train. Prior to the train rolling away, a fire in a locomotive had been extinguished by local authorities.

Unlike the Canadian emergency rule, the FRA Order does not immediately mandate minimum 2 man crews on haz mat trains, rather, the Safety Advisory notes that crew size will be a task discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the RSAC.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Environmental Groups Sue Over Coal Export Financing

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups has sued the U.S. Export-Import Bank in an effort to void the Bank's $90 million loan guarantee to support the export of Appalachian coal primarily from ports in Baltimore and Hampton Roads, VA. The action, CV-13-3532, filed in federal court in San Francisco, was brought by various environmental groups including the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Sierra Club.

Arguing that the transport, storage, and loading of coal creates dust, as well as exhaust from train and ship engines, the suit seeks to void the loan guarantee to coal broker Xcoal for the claimed failure of the Ex-Im Bank to perform an Environmental Impact Statement or analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Here is a news account describing the suit from the Baltimore Sun.