As train transport of oil increases, Pa. railroads, first responders quizzed on emergency plans

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    The number of trains carrying crude oil is on the rise in Pennsylvania. So, are first responders prepared for potential accidents? That was the question before a packed state legislative committee hearing in Delaware County Wednesday. 

    For more than three hours, members of the House Committee on Emergency Preparedness questioned the railroad representatives and first responders about how they are preparing for potential disasters on the tracks.

    Robert Full, chief deputy director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said the state traditionally has a limited role.

    “We rely heavily on the county governments, the local governments,” he said. “We would be there in support, but we’re not out there, we don’t have the ability to get in there hands-on.”

    However, Full said the state is starting to get more involved. PEMA recently signed an agreement with at least one railroad hauling crude oil. CSX will provide access to real-time information about hazardous shipments moving through Pennsylvania. And PEMA is talking with Norfolk Southern about a similar arrangement.

    So, are first responders prepared? State Rep. Steve Barrar, R-Upper Chichester, said there is room for improvement.

    “We want to make sure it’s going to be not just adequate — that it’s going to be the best that it can be,” Barrar said.

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