U.S. Senate Defeats Hazmat Rerouting Amendment

The U.S. Senate voted 73-25 yesterday against a measure that would have allowed cities and states to reroute rail hazardous materials around major cities. The National Association of Chemical Distributors issued a statement thanking the 73 senators who defeated Sen. Joseph Biden's amendment; Biden, a Delaware Democrat and presidential candidate, had told his colleagues yesterday about "90-ton chlorine gas tank cars that go rolling through Newark on their way down through the corridor into my state and across my state" and said the Naval Research Institute analyzed for him the possible losses if one blew up in a metropolitan area. The institute estimated 100,000 people would die.

"NACD commends the Senate for soundly defeating the Biden amendment. This provision was a classic example of a solution that sounds good but would ultimately result in undesirable consequences," said NACD President Christopher L. Jahn. "Requiring rail shipments of hazardous materials to be rerouted around urban areas would cause these shipments to be transported over much longer distances, increasing chances of an incident." Jahn said several measures are under way to enhance the security of hazmat rail shipments. "The Transportation Security Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are conducting a rulemaking that would require carriers and shippers to take substantial new measures to prevent a terrorist attack on railcars containing hazardous materials. In addition, legislation is pending in both the Senate and House to enhance these agencies' efforts statutorily," he said.

Biden's amendment also sought to authorize $500 million for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012 for FIRE Act Grants and the same amount in each of those years for SAFER Grants -- two priorities for the fire service. All of the senators who voted with him were Democrats, mainly from eastern states, except for Sen. Joseph Lieberman, ID-Conn.

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