News & Reviews News Wire Maine enacts new law on rail hazardous-material transportation

Maine enacts new law on rail hazardous-material transportation

By Trains Staff | April 17, 2024

Railroads must provide training, more information

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View of damaged track and derailed train
This April 2023 derailment near Rockwood, Maine, led to the state’s new law on reporting hazardous-material movements by rail. Jackman-Moose River Fire & Rescue Department

AUGUSTA, Maine — Railroads in Maine face new requirements for reporting the transport of hazardous materials in the state after Gov. Janet Mills signed an emergency bill into law on Friday, the Portland Press Herald reports.

LD1937 was introduced last year following a Rockwood, Maine, derailment and fire that saw three crew members injured [see “Fire chief calls it a ‘miracle’ …,” Trains News Wire, April 17, 2023]. Two cars of hazardous materials were in the consist of the train involved, although neither derailed. The newspaper reports the final version of the bill has been amended significantly from the original version [see “Maine legislature seeks to end confidentiality for rail shipment …,” News Wire, May 20, 2023]. It limits public access to the state’s information to after a derailment or spill occurs.

“We felt that it was fair that everybody doesn’t need to know everything that’s traveling at any time,” co-sponsor Rep. Tavis Hasenfus (D-Readfield) told the newspaper. “The emergency management agency, first responders, people who need to know will know what generally is on these lines. They’ll have access to any immediate information the companies have if there is a derailment, and then in the aftermath, the public will have the knowledge of anything that potentially could have spilled from a derailment.”

The bill as passed requires railroads provide records on hazardous materials it transports, the routes used, and the frequency they are transported to state and local emergency agencies and local first responders; to make a 911 call to inform first responders of an incident and “provide timely notice” to the state’s Department of Public Safety, Department of Environmental Protection, and Maine Emergency Management Agency; and to provide training to fire departments and emergency management organizations along rail routes. They must also submit plans on prevention and response to environmental incidents to the state’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection, must provide inspection reports when requested, and submit post-accident reviews and yearly accident reports.

As an emergency bill, it takes effect immediately, rather than in the usual 90 days after passage. CSX Transportation has indicated its support for the law.

3 thoughts on “Maine enacts new law on rail hazardous-material transportation

  1. This could have easily been done by working with the railroads to update their standard practices rather than wasting a bunch of taxpayer money making lawyers and beurocrates rich.

  2. A fair and equitable political system would pay the railroads for the extra cost of assembling and distributing this data. And since almost all such movements are safe and delivered with no problems, wouldn’t be long before the recipients ignore this data flow as a nuisance rather than valuable info.
    Seldom do lawmakers think anything through to all side effects and ramifications. They just want the headlines.

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