Governor Vetoes Oil Train Safety Bill – unconscionable, reckless, and dangerous

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Governor Vetoes Oil Train Safety Bill

Today Governor Christie conditionally vetoed a bill, S806 (Weinberg), that sought to make oil trains in the state safer.The bill required operators carrying Bakken crude shipments to have discharge response, cleanup, and contingency plans to transport certain hazardous materials by rail. Previous Bakken train derailments have led to train cars setting on fire, homes being destroyed, forced evacuations of entire towns, threatened water supplies, and human casualties.

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“Christie’s veto of this bill is unconscionable, reckless, and dangerous. He seems to care more about oil companies than the safety of the people of New Jersey. The bill was a compromise that everyone worked on and an important step in the right direction to deal with these dangerous bomb trains. Instead of supporting this work, the Governor gutted the bill. When a train carrying Bakken crude oil derails, it is a disaster. Towns need to have contingency plans in place to clean up and minimize the risk. We need to make sure there are response and emergency plans if something happens with one of these rail cars at a moment’s notice,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “His argument for not signing the bill is nothing but an excuse since anyone can view the universal code on every rail car carrying Bakken crude. We’re not hiding this info from the terrorists, we’re hiding it from first responders and communities.These trains are carrying extremely dangerous and volatile substances putting our communities and environment at risk.”

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Hundreds of trains carrying Bakken crude oil travel through our state each year. These trains cross environmentally sensitive areas and major drinking water supplies like the Oradell Reservoir and Delaware River. One quart of oil contaminates one million gallons of water and one rail car carries 34,500 gallons of oil. Previous Bakken train derailments have led to train cars setting on fire, homes being destroyed, forced evacuations of entire towns, threatened water supplies, and human casualties.

“The federal rules on these trains are too lax and he just vetoed the stricter state law. We can, and should, go stronger in New Jersey. Bakken crude, especially when carried by rail, is a ticking time bomb. These trains are carrying extremely dangerous and volatile substances putting our communities and environment at risk. These communities are completely unaware about what is traveling through their towns and how to handle a potential devastating accident. Communities are burden with all the risk, while the companies reap all the monetary benefit; the polluters should be the one to pay for their messes.” said Jeff Tittel. “There’s a lot more that needs to be done stop these Bakken oil trains. We need to get rid of these dangerous cars altogether and move to a clean energy future.”

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There are 2,400 miles of freight tracks in New Jersey and hundreds of trains a year and 30 trains a week coming through the state. These trains cut through communities throughout the state like Somerville, Camden, Oradell, West Trenton, Paulsboro, and Newark. Sierra Club members in Teaneck watch as these trains traverse their town. Each train carries dozens of oil rail cars that transport one of the most flammable types of crude oil Bakken crude.

“With 30 trains coming through our communities a week, we are playing Russian Roulette with our safety. It’s not if a disaster occurs; it is a matter of when. That’s why these cars should be banned. The devastating incidents across the country raise many concerns regarding the transportation of the dangerous Bakken crude whether by rail, barge, or pipeline through New Jersey. North Dakota Bakken Shale oil is one of the most explosive types of oil in the world. It is dangerous because volatile compounds are left in, instead of taken out because it would cost more to remove. They could build facilities to remove this compound but it’s cheaper to transport them through our communities. Gasoline cannot be moved by rail, the same way Bakken is yet Bakken is more volatile and flammable. Whether it is traveling by rail, barge or pipeline, it is a disaster waiting to happen endangering our families, property and environment,” said Jeff Tittel. “Until we can ban these cars altogether, we need this legislation to plan for potential accidents they may cause.”

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Casualties as a result of train derailments and explosions have been noticed across North America. In 2013, 80 tanker cars carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec killed 47 people. Three other accidents happened in 2013 occurred when a tank car were derailed or hit by another train. In March, another train derailment carrying crude oil occurred in Galena, Illinois. The eight-rail crash ignited flames have been reported to be seen for miles. These trains pose a threat to our safety and drinking water.

“We should look to get an override on the bill because the safety of the people of New Jersey is too important. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait for the next Governor to pass this important legislation. Sierra Club is in federal court suing the federal Department of Transportation to have a moratorium on these train cars until they are made safer. Not only are they a danger cutting through densely populated communities putting people at risk but can cause an ecological disaster and water supply nightmare.  A major spill here could destroy drinking water and would have major impacts on the local and regional economy,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Communities are burden with all the risk, while the companies reap all the monetary benefit. Communities have the Right-to-Know what is coming through and how to react in case of emergency.”

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