Menendez vows to change train rules in wake of Paulsboro crash, spill

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Last week, the the National Transportation Safety Board found the 2012 train derailment and toxic chemical spill in Paulsboro, New Jersey, could — and should — have been prevented.

Now, New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator is promising legislation to help avert smiliar crashes.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez used the pounding pile-driver that is sinking the foundation of a new rail bridge in Paulsboro Thursday as a backdrop to talk about his plans for railway safety.

The 2012 crash at the current span resulted in 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride gas emanating from tank cars, displacing residents and businesses.

The NTSB faulted Conrail, its workers and first responders to the spill.

In its report, it released more than 20 railroad-safety recommendations for federal, state and local agencies.

“I was a little bit surprised that there were no penalties leveled here. I believe there are two ways, ultimately, in a society to get people as well as companies and industries to move in a certain way,” Menendez said. “One is by an incentive and that is, incentives to get companies to move in a certain way. The other one is by consequences.”

State Sen. Donald Norcross, who is running for Congress and joined Menendez at the news conference, said he spent much of his pre-political career in Paulsboro as an electrician. The derailment and chemical spill could have happened anywhere, he said Thursday.

“We need to make sure that rail line that brings commerce to the region is a safe line,” Norcross said. “We also need to be sure, locally, we have the first responders who have the best tools, the best training and, certainly, the right knowledge.”

Paulsboro resident Irma Stevenson, a nurse and first responder, said Conrail needs to answer for the spill.

“As a nurse, I need to know the diagnosis before I can treat the patient,” she said. “You need to know the diagnosis to treat the people of Paulsboro, and they aren’t answering my questions.”

A spokesman for Conrail who attended the news conference declined to comment.

Menendez is promising legislation in about a month.

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