Share This Page

CSX makes deal with state on shipments of hazardous materials

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 11:03 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will be able to track one major railroad's shipments of hazardous materials through the state in real time in a deal announced on Monday.

The three-year agreement with CSX Transportation, the state's second-busiest freight railroad, will give PEMA access to the railroad's computer network that tracks rail shipments.

“With direct access to the company's information, it greatly increases the ability of (PEMA) to prepare for and respond to rail incidents,” agency Director Glenn Cannon said.

CSX said it has similar agreements with about 20 other states, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Transportation Security Administration.

“This partnership allows (CSX) and state officials to effectively and seamlessly share information and work side by side to safeguard the communities that we serve,” said Skip Elliott, CSX vice president of public safety, health and environment.

Josh Wilson, executive director of the Keystone State Railroad Association, said association members — including CSX — are “always looking for innovative ways to enhance the safety of rail freight movement across the commonwealth.”

PEMA is negotiating a similar deal with Norfolk Southern Corp., the state's busiest freight railroad, and could explore ones with other carriers, agency spokesman Cory Angell said.

More than 50 railroads haul freight in Pennsylvania, according to Association of American Railroads data.

The agency knows the volume of hazardous materials being shipped through the state annually, but not where or when, Angell said.

PEMA's announcement arrives on the heels of two derailments in Pennsylvania, one in Philadelphia in January by CSX and one in Vandergrift on Feb. 13 by Norfolk Southern. The latter derailment involved 21 tanker cars, including 18 carrying heavy crude oil and one containing butane. No one was injured, but four punctured tankers leaked 3,500 to 4,500 gallons of crude, with most of it winding up in a parking lot.

Federal right-to-know laws exempt shipping companies such as CSX from having to disclose what hazardous materials they carry. While CSX has a “voluntary agreement” with some cities that it won't move “unit trains” — those carrying only one type of hazmat cargo — it easily gets around that rule. In Philadelphia, one of the seven cars that derailed was carrying sand.

In 2013, CSX reported 212 accidents — 99 of them from derailments. Sixty-four others involved cars carrying hazmat cargo — the highest number for any railroad company in the United States.

CSX will train PEMA workers how to use its network. It's unclear when PEMA will begin monitoring shipments on its own.

The Associated Press contributed. Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.