HARRISBURG – The state Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a joint hearing today in Harrisburg to hear testimony on ways to improve the safe transportation of energy products along Pennsylvania’s rail network.
The Committees heard testimony from representatives of the Governor’s Office, energy companies, rail companies, emergency responders and the Public Utility Commission regarding efforts to prevent, prepare for and respond to derailments and other rail freight accidents.
“This hearing has been vital in gathering information on how energy products, including crude oil, are moved through Pennsylvania, how local, state and federal governments can work together to address rail safety, and what resources are needed to protect communities,” said Senator John. Rafferty, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “We were interested to learn more about safely moving these products across the state and work swiftly and proactively with various stakeholders to implement new safeguards.”
“Transportation by rail is obviously really important,” said Senator Gene Yaw, Chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “The United States is blessed with all of the energy possibilities that it has, but we need to get all those products to market. Rail is one way we can get those products to market. As Committee Chairmen, Sen. Rafferty and I are continuously working to ensure that these products are shipped safely and efficiently across the Commonwealth.
Pennsylvania has the most operating railroad companies of any state, with a total of 57 across the state – ranging from the largest Class I railroads, moving long trains of goods along busy main line tracks to small “short line” railroads that may serve a short list of industries in a small area, moving a few cars at a time.
While testifiers emphasized that North America’s rail networks moves almost all of its hazardous material shipments to their destination without incident, they said that coordination, planning and being prepared are crucial to prevent accidents.
Testifiers also said proactive efforts are being made by government agencies, the railroad companies, the oil industry and emergency response agencies to avoid a major loss of life, the impact of a serious environmental disaster and to minimize considerable energy and utility losses.
They emphasized that Pennsylvania needs to take comprehensive approach to prevent train derailments, comply with new federal guidelines and give first responders the knowledge and tools they need to respond to incidents.
“In recent years, we have seen significant increases to U.S. oil and natural gas production improve economic growth and promote energy independence,” Rafferty said. “We now need to continue implementing sound policy decisions to secure a prosperous Commonwealth for the decades ahead.”
“Through communication, cooperation and coordination we can make rail transportation even safer and provide assurances to communities that we have good plans in place to address this important issue,” Yaw added.
For more information, contact:
Adam Pankake, Executive Director, Sen. Yaw
Nolan Ritchie, Executive Director, Sen. Rafferty