Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fed Judge: Railroads Responsible for Costs of Oil Spills, Disaster Planning

CA Fed Judge: Train Companies Must Prepare for Oil Spills

 PHOTO: Companies running oil trains in California will be required to have a spill-response plan. Photo credit: vladyslav-danilin/shutterstock

June 26, 2015

Railroad companies soon won't be able to carry oil in California unless they have a safety plan - and put aside lots of money to cover any future spills. That's because a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed an industry lawsuit last week against California's new railroad safety law.

Patti Goldman, managing attorney for Earthjustice, said the precautions required are common sense.

"All other industries, like the tankers that carry the oil, the refiners, the pipelines, all of them prepare these oil-spill response plans," she aaid. "It's time for the railroads to do the same."

Railroad companies had argued that federal law pre-empts states' regulation of the railroads.

Goldman said the companies now will have more incentive to get the training, equipment and communications systems in place to prevent the worst-case scenario.

"They improve their practices. They can't get financial assurances if they're being really risky," she said. "And they figure out how to handle the oil better so that they won't have a spill."

California's railroad safety law will go into effect once regulations are finalized.
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA

Victory: Railroads must show financial responsibility, safety plans for hazardous fuels they transport in California 

EarthJustice   June 19, 2015
San Francisco, CA —Yesterday, a federal judge dismissed a legal challenge to a California law that requires railroads to commit to oil spill response plans and demonstrate financial solvency in state efforts to reasonably prepare for the risk of oil car derailments and disasters such as those seen this year in West Virginia, Ontario and Illinois.

Reacting to a dramatic surge in crude oil trains coming into the state and threatening state waters, California passed a law last year requiring that railroads and other entities that transport oil across the state prepare comprehensive oil spill response plans and demonstrate financial responsibility to clean up a worst-case oil spill. The railroad industry sued the state, seeking to prohibit enforcement of the law, arguing that federal rail laws preempt any state regulation of the railroads. Earthjustice, representing a coalition of concerned citizen groups, sportfishermen, and environmental organizations, joined in the State of California’s defense of the law.

The ruling allows the state to implement regulations requiring increased accountability from railroads in light of the exponential expansion of crude-by-rail shipments across the nation and the resulting risks and incidents of derailments, spills and explosions. In his ruling, Judge Troy Nunley of the Eastern District of California dismissed the railroads’ challenge as premature, since the law they challenged has not yet been implemented.

“States have the authority—a duty even—to demand that railroads have plans in place to respond to disasters and protect waterways from oil spills,” said Earthjustice attorney Tamara Zakim.  “California’s law is a sensible response to the flood of Bakken crude and Canadian tar sands oil entering the state by rail and the threat those shipments pose, and the Court has done the right thing by dismissing railroads’ baseless challenge.”

Earthjustice represented San Francisco Baykeeper, Communities for a Better Environment, the Sierra Club, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Association of Irritated Residents and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network in defense of the law.

Read the legal document.

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