Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) has joined Bergen County first responders and county fire officials in voicing concerns that they do not have enough manpower or equipment to deal with an oil tanker derailment.
Earlier this month, Ciattarelli introduced legislation (AR-171) urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to enact its proposed regulations on the safe transport of crude oil by rail. Ciattarelli said the amount of oil shipped through New Jersey communities warrants modernization of current regulations specific to oil rail car thickness and braking systems.
“Many municipalities rely on volunteer firefighters and they do an excellent job,” explained Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “However, like in Bergen County, many towns lack the manpower, expertise and equipment for handling an oil tanker derailment. Coordinated efforts by each county, in partnership with rail freight line companies, including shared knowledge, resources and preparedness plans, would be extremely beneficial.”
On Monday, at a meeting of about 75 first responders in Hackensack, Bergen County officials called for a countywide strategy for dealing with a potential derailment of trains traveling through the county and other parts of the state carrying Bakken crude oil, a highly flammable fuel that has been involved in several trains crashes throughout North America in the past year. New Jersey rail lines have seen an uptick in trains hauling the cargo over the past several years, and more than 60,000 tank cars, each containing as much as 3 million gallons of oil, are expected to be hauled on the CSX River Line through 11 Bergen County towns this year.
“The good news is rail freight lines do have their own derailment response brigades,” Ciattarelli added. “It would be even better news if the U.S. Department of Transportation were to enact its proposed regulations upgrading safety standards for shipments of crude oil by rail.”
Ciattarelli’s resolution urges Congress to support the new regulations proposed by the USDOT in July which require tankers transporting the oil to meet thickness standards and enhance a train’s braking system within two years or risk being phased out.