Senate approves bill to study oil train derailment training

Senate approves bill to study oil train derailment training
© AP

The Senate approved Monday a bill to increase training efforts for first responders to rail car accidents. 

The legislation, from Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-N.D.), would create a committee within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designed to research new training methods and expand resources for emergency officials who respond to “railroad hazmat incidents,” including oil car derailments.

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The bill would require that the committee — which would be made up of federal officials, local agencies and the private sector — report to FEMA within one year on ways to improve first responder training.  

Heitkamp introduced the bill in February after an oil train derailment in West Virginia. North Dakota has seen its share of derailments as well, including one in 2013 that spilled 400,000 gallons of oil near a city outside Fargo. Local officials were the first ones to respond to each accident. 

Oil by rail safety has been a major issue for lawmakers and regulators. 

Last year, the Department of Transportation released a set of reforms deigned to reduce accidents, including phasing out or retrofitting every rail car carrying ethanol and crude oil. A handful of Senate Democrats had previously introduced a bill to regulate not only the rail cars but the content of the oil itself. 

Heitkamp’s bill passed out of committee in March, and a version of the legislation has been introduced in the House. 

“To truly help communities throughout North Dakota and our country remain safe places for families to live, grow, and work, all of our nation’s first responders need to be able to get the training and resources they need to protect us when responding to hazardous incidents,” Heitkamp said in a statement in March. 

“Just as our first responders protect our communities, it’s also our responsibility to make sure training programs throughout the country meet the needs of the brave men and women who help keep our communities strong and safe, and my [bill] is a key part of achieving that goal.”