Federal lawsuit challenges safety of railroad transport of toxic chemicals

The Chemical Company - The View from JamestownTwo train accidents, one resulting in 47 deaths, and both causing massive, fiery explosions, has put the railroad transportation of toxic chemicals under scrutiny.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed in Minnesota by several chemical groups that include The Chlorine Institue and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) against the Canadian Pacific Railroad for their abrupt changes in policy and implementation of stringent regulations that the chemical groups consider unreasonable.

The new regulations require all rail cars hauling certain toxic chemicals on Canadian Pacific lines to comply with stricter safety standards effective immediately.

The chemical groups involved in the suit called the move “arbitrary, unilateral, and illegal,” and said in a statement that such chemicals “are essential to the economy and national health, and rail movement of these materials is extremely safe.”

“CP’s decision blindsides the chemical industry and has ramifications for America’s public health, agriculture, pharmaceutical, construction, defense, and manufacturing sectors,” said Tom Schick, ACC’s Senior Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs.

Canadian Pacific responded with a statement saying: ” . . . CP opposes the motion by the American Chemistry Council based on our railroad’s continual concern over safety in our communities. CP believes there is a shared responsibility to haul these commodities throughout North America in the safest possible manner and our railroad is asking shippers of these toxic chemicals to take steps to further protect our employees and the public.”

Statistics reveal that as many as 78,000 cars could be involved. Meeting the new standards would take several years and lots of money.

The chemical groups filing the suit claim that their rail cars meet all existing Department of Transportation (DOT) safety requirements.

The railroad feels that they have the right to protect themselves from lawsuits in the event of any accidents and they do not want to be responsible for the liability.

All parties agree that safety should always be the first consideration, but who is going to pay for it is an issue that needs to be resolved.