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Senate, House divide over shipping hazmats

March 19, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 12

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

The Senate defeated an effort last week to reroute hazardous chemical shipments away from population centers and other areas seen as potential targets for terrorist attacks, but the House kept the industry-opposed measure alive. The Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) to a broad homeland security bill that would have required railroads to transport highly hazardous chemicals around any high-threat corridor, unless no practical alternative routes exist. Chemical shippers and the freight railroad industry lobbied against the proposal, arguing that a rerouting requirement would create new security hazards. Forced rerouting would "add hundreds of miles and additional days to hazmat shipments with the resulting exposure occurring on more circuitous and less suitable routes," the American Chemistry Council and the Association of American Railroads stated in a joint letter to the Senate. But the House Homeland Security Committee agreed to include a similar hazmat rerouting provision in separate legislation on rail and mass transit security, clearing the way for the measure's consideration by the full House. The committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) requiring rail carriers to reroute "security sensitive materials," such as chlorine and propane, around high-threat areas whenever a more secure route exists.


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