Reps. Tim Walz, Ron Kind and Colleagues Across Nation Introduce Bill to Help Local First Responders Handle Train Derailments
Washington, DC [2/24/15] – U.S. Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN), Ron Kind (D-WI), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) introduced the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) Act today, to help first responders in local communities in the event of a train derailment or fuel spill. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
“Ensuring our first responders have the tools, training, and equipment necessary to respond effectively should disaster strike is of the utmost importance, and it was the number one thing I heard from local community leaders that was lacking during my many rail safety meetings across Minnesota,” said Rep. Walz. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation along with Rep. Kind and others to hopefully help fix this problem. I urge leadership to take up this important bill without delay.”
The RESPONSE Act creates a subcommittee under FEMA’s National Advisory Council to bring together agencies, emergency responders, technical experts, and the private sector to review training, best practices, resources, and unmet needs related to railroad incidents. The Bakken oil boom in North Dakota, and several recent dangerous train derailments around the country, has put how we transport our energy products in the spotlight.
According to the Washington Post, overall, only about 10 percent of U.S. crude moves by rail, but nearly 70 percent of crude from the North Dakota’s Bakken field heads to refineries along our rail routes. Some of that 70 percent—not all—go through Minnesota cities like Winona and Minneapolis.
The subcommittee created by the Kind/Walz legislation would provide recommendations to Congress within one year on emergency responder training and resource allocation, addressing quality of training, funding levels, emergency response plans, and improving the flow of information to local first responders. It would also help develop a train incident database.