Lieberman Says Proposed Rail, Transit Regulations Neglect Connecticut Hazardous Material Concerns

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said Friday that proposed regulations for rail, transit, and freight security exclude Connecticut from the regulations governing transit of hazardous materials.

The regulations, proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, would require inspection of cars before they are loaded with “toxic inhalation hazards,” constant tracking throughout their route, and around the clock supervision while at rest before and after shipment. The regulations, however, only apply to high threat urban areas, and no city in Connecticut has been designated a high threat urban area by the department.

“I am dumbfounded that the Department’s regulations – which are certainly welcome, and in fact, long overdue – do not cover cities like New Haven where chemicals that can kill or injure if inhaled are routed through the city,” Lieberman said. “New Haven and others cities where tens of thousands of citizens could be harmed by a chemical release should not be ignored simply because they are not on the Department’s list of high threat urban areas used to distribute homeland security grants. The Department must reassess what qualifies a city to be high risk in the context of rail security. Furthermore, the best way to protect Americans from hazardous chemicals is to encourage the chemical industry to use safer materials and procedures.”

Lieberman offered an amendment during Committee mark up of chemical security legislation earlier this year that would have required the chemical industry to use safer materials and procedures. His amendment was defeated.

The Senator added that he was disappointed that the proposed regulations do not make it clear whether the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Transportation is the lead agency for rail and transit security. And he stressed that the regulations “will not make the country more secure unless the President and Congress adequately fund them.”