We need common-sense safety solutions for trains carrying hazardous materials

What's At Stake

In 2012, a train carrying a petrochemical called vinyl chloride, an input in making plastic, derailed in New Jersey, releasing 23,000 gallons into the air. A decade later, a train carrying the same toxic chemical derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, exposing residents to toxic gases linked to serious health harm and contaminating the air, soil, and a major water source used by millions of people.

The Department of Transportation, the federal agency that oversees our country’s railroads, can strengthen safety requirements that prevent these types of disasters. Urge Transportation Secretary Buttigieg to write commonsense safety rules for trains carrying hazardous materials.

Petrochemicals are toxic chemicals derived from oil and gas that are used to make paint, adhesives, plastics, and more. As the U.S. shifts to clean energy, fossil fuel companies are turning to petrochemicals to protect their profits. Vinyl chloride has been linked to deadly diseases like liver, brain, and lung cancers. Short-term exposure to high levels can cause dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, and headaches. And vinyl chloride is extremely volatile. When trains carrying these hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals derail, explosions can happen, contaminating nearby waterways, soil, and air.

For years, the railroads have fought all kinds of basic safety regulations to keep spending at a minimum, even if it means risking chemical disasters that can irreversibly harm human health, animals, and the environment. A decade ago, Earthjustice and its clients sought to modernize braking systems on trains carrying explosive crude oil, and yet even that narrow safety measure was repealed. When it comes to the transport of hazardous and flammable cargo, we need strong regulations that will protect the health and safety of communities.

Join Earthjustice and our clients to call on the Department of Transportation to modernize the federal rail brake systems required for all trains carrying explosively toxic materials. Let the agency know that you are following their actions closely and that they must act on the rulemaking process to protect communities and the environment.

A train carrying oil travels through California.
A train carrying oil travels through California. (Photo courtesy of Russ Allison Loar)

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