Citing train derailments, Casey beats the drum for federal appropriations bill
Citing three recent train derailments in Pennsylvania, Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey is beating the drum for a federal appropriations bill he says would help make shipping hazardous materials like crude oil safer.
The bill would fund the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation, including the related agencies that oversee the nation’s highways and railroads.
Casey says it includes $3 million for track inspections and funds to hire 20 new rail and hazardous materials inspectors.
“It’s hard to believe you even have to legislate on that,” Casey said on a call with reporters. “They should be readily available, should be funded every year. There shouldn’t be any question you have enough inspectors.”
Casey says the bill would compliment a number of voluntary actions taken by the railroads earlier this year following a slew of accidents involving trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials, including derailments in Philadelphia, Vandergrift and McKeesport. These accidents have been the fallout of a nationwide increase in rail traffic resulting from the oil and gas boom. According to the railroads, as many as eight trains hauling crude oil move through Pennsylvania to refineries on the East Coast every day.
“If there’s a bill that can help us do that better and in a much safer fashion, I want to make sure that we push it through and get it done,” Casey says.
Earlier this week, the Obama administration slammed the version of the legislation put up by the Republican-controlled House. The White House said the bill did not go far enough to invest in infrastructure.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. A spokesman for Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey has not yet decided whether to support it. In a statement, spokesman Steven Kelly says Toomey is reviewing the bill, “but believes that funding road and bridge repair is an essential function of government.”