New Jersey may require train operators to disclose hazardous cargo

Derailed freight train cars lie in water in Paulsboro, N.J., in 2012. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Derailed freight train cars lie in water in Paulsboro, N.J., in 2012. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

A bill advancing in the New Jersey Legislature would force train companies to be more transparent about the transport of crude oil and hazardous substances.

The measure is intended to help protect communities if the case of a derailment.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said Bakken oil transported by train through the state contains chemicals that could cause it to explode during an accident. He’s also concerned a spill could endanger nearby water supplies.

“Every day, we’re playing Russian roulette with our rail lines,” he said. “And this bill brings some common-sense, simple ways of letting the public know we have plans in place in case something happens.”

The legislation would require the operators of trains with high-hazard freight to put information on their websites about the routes and volumes of cargo.

That’s a security risk, said Michael Fesen with Norfolk Southern Railway.

“These provisions are nothing short of a gift to ISIS, al-Qaida, and homegrown terrorists,” he said. “This bill takes all the hard work out of being a terrorist, and it flies in the face of our national efforts to protect our citizens, our towns, and our hazardous materials from attack and sabotage.”

Freight trains have symbols on the cars indicating what’s inside, and anyone with the right app can look it up, said Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.

“Saying this somehow sets up something for somebody to attack a train is beyond the pale because anybody can, God forbid, do it today,” she said.

Former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed similar legislation. Weinberg is hoping Gov. Phil Murphy goes along with the latest version.

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