Gino DiCaro

Rail tank car use limited by SB 419

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, June 30, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Last year, Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced SB 419, Hazardous Material Transport: Railcars, a bill that would have initially limited where hazardous materials could be shipped within the state by rail.  The bill made it through the Senate and to the Assembly Safety and Toxic Materials Committee before stalling.  It was significantly amended earlier this month and now imposes unworkable compliance and registration requirements which do little to improve the security of these cars.

The legislation, if enacted, would likely be pre-empted by federal statutes governing the manufacture, use and inspection of tank cars that carry hazardous materials.  Imposing registration and compliance requirements on tank cars that may be legally used in all other states presents an untenable situation for the railroads, tank car owners and for interstate shippers.  Ironically, SB 419 recognizes that its provisions would likely be preempted because the bill contains language authorizing the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to "apply to the Secretary of Transportation for a waiver of preemption."  CMTA does not believe it is prudent public policy to develop a new and costly program when it is already understood that such a program conflicts with federal law.

The bill requires the creation of a costly "California only" standard for rail cars in the name of increasing security, yet the bill contains no provisions that would actually achieve better security.  Uniform, national safety efforts are in place and are being further refined both by public and private sector stakeholders.

SB 419 would result in significant costs to the state to develop and implement regulations and create a new rail tank car database, as well as ongoing costs to inspect rail cars, shippers and end users to ensure compliance.  In addition, state and local governments would see increased enforcement costs to inspect the thousands of additional trucks on the road that would be needed to transport these materials should existing rail cars be forced out of service or unavailable due to the limited number of tank cars meeting the new proposed standards.

This bill would severely hamper the delivery of a wide array of raw materials, fuels, gases, and other materials via rail tank cars that are essential to countless agricultural operations, industries and public agencies (such as drinking water disinfection facilities).  It would create a logistical nightmare for both the railroads and shippers and increased costs for California businesses and consumers.  Such a system could result in delivery delays and production interruptions for the many small businesses and larger industries that are the backbone of the state's economy.  

SB 419 is set for hearing on August 9 in Assembly Appropriations.  CMTA remains opposed.

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