WASHINGTON—Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded over $250,000 to the State of Oregon to develop or revise emergency plans and invest in emergency response training to deal with accidents involving the transportation of hazardous materials. The grant can also be used to investigate how much and how frequently hazardous materials are being transported through Oregon cities.
“I have worked for years to increase safety standards for the transport of hazardous materials, but along with that we must ensure States are prepared in the event of an accident,” said Rep. DeFazio. “These funds from DOT will provide resources to help Oregon develop comprehensive safety plans and train emergency responders to be better equipped and prepared to respond to accidents.”
“Oregonians well know the potential dangers posed by oil-by-rail transportation,” said Senator Wyden. “Part of protecting our communities means ensuring our first responders are well trained and well prepared to deal with the aftermath of a train derailment like we saw in Mosier. That’s why I included funding in my Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Act of 2015 for advanced training for first responders, and why I’m glad this funding has come through.”
“Oil trains are rolling explosive hazards, and it’s absolutely critical that our communities have the resources and plans in place to respond to potential emergencies,” said Senator Merkley. “Today’s grant will provide a huge boost to Oregon communities that are working hard to address and manage this public safety threat.”
The Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grant, totaling $252,088, will help Oregon design and implement planning and training programs for hazardous material disasters based on the state’s individual needs. This funding, part of a larger grant awarded to states, territories, and Native American tribes to enhance their ability to respond to hazardous materials transportation incidents, was authorized in the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was signed into law in 2015. As the Ranking Member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. DeFazio was a key negotiator of the FAST Act and secured critical safety provisions, including language to reauthorize the HMEP grant program.
In April 2017, DeFazio joined his Oregon House colleagues to introduce the bipartisan Community Protection and Preparedness Act (H.R.2223), legislation that creates a new trust fund to help communities prepare for accidents involving rail cars transporting flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol.
The Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2015, introduced by Sens. Wyden and Merkley, would establish a dedicated fund for advanced training for first responders.
The full DOT grant announcement can be found here.