New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require the owners or operators of trains to have detailed plans in the event of an oil spill. The bill applies to trains that carry all types of hazardous flammable liquids. These trains frequently pass through the densely populated state of New Jersey, putting citizens at risk. The bill would also require railway companies to publicly disclose more detailed information about what they are transporting, where it is being routed, and how much crude oil is passing through the state.
Oil trains can be extremely dangerous, as evidenced in earlier disasters. A few years ago, there was a massive tragedy in Quebec, where a crude oil train comprised of 74 cars derailed, careening in the center of a small bustling town center. The explosion killed nearly 50 individuals and destroyed more than 30 buildings. The resulting petroleum still led to widespread contamination throughout the town. Emergency workers fought the fire for 20 hours, at which point the center of the fire was still unreachable and the fuel continued to burn for days.
A disaster like the one in Quebec could easily happen in New Jersey, with even more massive casualty effects due to the state’s dense population. Many rail companies, such as CSX, snake through New Jersey’s suburbs, transporting millions of gallons of highly flammable oil from North Dakota to Philadelphia, where a major refinery is located.
Long before the incident in Quebec, there were concerns that these oil trains posed a great risk of danger in the event of a train derailment. Williams Cedar attorneys have represented thousands of residents in Paulsboro, New Jersey, who were adversely affected in December, 2014, when a Conrail train derailed when crossing a poorly maintained bridge, releasing the dangerous chemical vinyl chloride over the town. Although earlier versions of the anti-spill bill were approved by the State Legislature, they were ultimately vetoed by then Governor Chris Christie. The new bill, S1883, was introduced by Senator Loretta Weinberg in February. The bill was passed by the Senate on June 25, 2018 and is awaiting approval by the Assembly.
If enacted, the law would require all train owners and operators to develop a clean-up and emergency response plan in the event of an oil spill. The law would also require the plans to be updated every five years. Many environmentalists assert that trains are an inherently unsafe way to transport oil, and thus have sought the outright ban of oil trains. According to Senator Weinberg, having a discharge contingency plan is the next best thing.
If you or someone you love has become ill, injured, or suffered property damage because of toxic pollution, we can help you hold the responsible party or parties accountable for their misconduct. To schedule a free consultation with one of our dedicated and experienced Philadelphia environmental contamination lawyers, call Williams Cedar today at 215-557-0099 or contact us online. With offices in Haddonfield, New Jersey and Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.