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State & Local Officials Call for Reduced Speed Limits on Trains Carrying Hazardous Substances

A group of state and local elected officials recently called on federal regulators to place speed limits on trains carrying hazardous substances through several towns in northern New Jersey. Concerns about derailments and the possibility for disaster have spiked in the past several years due, in part, to several high profile train accidents including the deadly derailment in Quebec, Canada.

Specifically, the officials expressed concern about the roughly 15 to 30 freight trains that haul millions of gallons of volatile crude oil each week through the towns of Norwood, Harrington Park, Closter, Haworth, Dumont, Bergenfield, Teaneck, Bogota, Ridgefield Park, and Ridgefield in Bergen County, at times traveling within feet of residences and highly populated areas. Interestingly, the use of rail lines to transport crude oil has increased 4,200 percent in the past six years due to the discovery of an oil reserve in North Dakota. Crude oil from the North Dakota reserve is then transported across the country and through New Jersey on its way to a refinery in Philadelphia. Local officials are worried that, absent stricter speed limits, the residents of these towns are at risk of injury or even death should a train derail and spill crude oil near their homes, businesses and schools. At present, major rail companies have agreed to a 40 mph limit in areas within 10 miles of a major city (which covers all of the tracks on which crude oil is presently being moved through Bergen County), but the Bergen County officials argued that a 40 mph limit is not protective enough and urged the United Stated Department of Transportation to adopt a speed limit of 25 miles per hour for trains carrying crude oil.

Officials in New Jersey have good reason to be concerned about the effects of a derailment. Rail tanker cars hauling toxic substances are common in the state. In November 2012, a train pulling tanker cars filled with the hazardous substance known as vinyl chloride derailed while proceeding over a movable bridge in Paulsboro, New Jersey when the train operators ignored safety warnings that the bridge was malfunctioning. The derailment caused significant amounts of vinyl chloride to spill into the surrounding environment and exposing hundreds of people to the cloud of vinyl chloride that escaped from the breached tanker car. The attorneys at Lieberman & Blecher currently represent over one hundred individuals who were exposed to vinyl chloride as a result of the rail company’s negligence.

The Toxic Injury Lawyers of Lieberman & Blecher, P.C. will be closely following any developments in regulations relating to the transportation of hazardous substances. Our attorneys are highly experienced in both environmental regulatory issues and with assisting clients who have been exposed to hazardous substances. Lieberman & Blecher provides effective representation to aggressively pursue those responsible for toxic exposure.


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