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Bid To Limit Chlorine Rail Shipments Denied

by Glenn Hess
June 22, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 25

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has ruled that Union Pacific Railroad has an obligation to transport chlorine, despite the company's assertion that the shipments pose enormous risks if an accident were to occur in a populated urban area. Concerned about potential liability, Union Pacific in February asked STB to put limits on its common carrier obligation to provide rates and service upon reasonable request. Under federal law, railroads have an obligation to transport hazardous chemicals, even though the materials put the companies at risk of multi-billion-dollar lawsuits in the event of an accident. Union Pacific said it was not reasonable to have to transport chlorine over a long distance and through large cities when supplies of the chemical are available closer to the destination. But STB rejected the railroad's claims and ruled that the Department of Transportation and the Transportation Security Administration have addressed the safety and security risk of transporting hazardous materials by rail. Chemical shippers welcome the decision. "Had STB granted Union Pacific's requested exception, the entire common carrier obligation to transport toxic inhalation hazards would have been threatened," the National Association of Chemical Distributors said in a statement.


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