Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
When a train carrying potentially dangerous oil derailed and exploded recently in West Virginia, triggering huge fire balls, it was up to a two-man rail crew to deal with the immediate danger.
Tuesday (today) a battle over train crew size in Nebraska goes public.
And while some of the debate here is likely to revolve around one or two-man crews, in Washington State they’re talking about larger teams.
As Nebraska Watchdog has reported, some lawmakers in Lincoln are backing a plan (LB192) to force the state’s two major railroads, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, to run trains with no fewer than two crew members.
UP spokesman Mark Davis tells Nebraska Watchdog the railroad opposes the measure, preferring to leave the debate over crew sizes at the bargaining table. Some critics fear the railroads are looking forward to the day when only one person is on board.
BNSF spokesman Andy Williams says all BNSF trains have 2-man crews.
The brunt of Washington’s debate includes an ever-growing concern over trains hauling potentially dangerous Bakken oil—the same oil, millions of gallons, is rolling through at least a dozen eastern Nebraska counties each week.
Washington lawmakers, both the House and Senate, are considering legislation mandating no less than two crew members on all trains, and then some. If a train is hauling hazardous materials, no less than three crew members would be required. If a train hauling hazardous substances is 51 cars or longer, at least four crew members must be on board.
Those bills hit the starting gate with the backing of 39 percent of Washington’s 147 legislators.
Closer to home, as Nebraska Watchdog has discovered, the 2-man crew legislation comes at a time when UP and BNSF have contributed nearly $100,000 to 42 of the legislature’s 49 current senators.
At the same time rail unions are touting their latest statewide poll which finds 84 percent of Nebraskans backing legislation requiring a minimum of 2-man crews. The same poll says 81 percent of Nebraskans are not worried about a train derailment.
Today’s public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 before the Transportation Committee at the State Capitol.
Contact Joe Jordan at [email protected].
Joe can be heard on Omaha’s KFAB radio every Monday morning at 7:40, KLIN in Lincoln every Tuesday morning at 7:35 and KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
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