According to the Association of American Railroads, the number of rail cars carrying crude oil on major freight railroads in the United States grew by more than 6,000 percent between 2008 and 2013 due to the increase of oil in the United States.
Meanwhile, recent derailments have occurred in Pennsylvania cities, including Philadelphia, Vandergrift and McKeesport.
StateImpact Pennsylvania reporter Katie Colaneri covered the derailment in Philadelphia. While it did not cause a spill, Colaneri noticed many people had concerns about the possibility of an oil spill, and these concerns led to a difficult question to answer.
“A lot of folks were asking the question of, ‘Would we have really been prepared to deal with an incident, had it been a lot more serious?’” Colaneri said.
According to Colaneri, before the incident in Philadelphia there was not much of an outcry for derailment preparedness, but after the incident, environmental groups rallied around the issue and local officials looked to get more information through a hearing, which was held in March.
Among possible solutions that came from the hearing was proposed legislation focused on increasing training and resources to react to derailments. An example of this proposed legislation is the RESPONSE Act, which is being pushed for by Sen. Bob Casey.
“It seems like this legislation that is being sponsored by Senator Casey would create this subcommittee that would sort of take a look at some of these issues, like is there enough federal funding already going to local emergency responders for training? How can we increase their access to information?” Colaneri said.
Colaneri estimates the subcommittee will report back to Congress with their findings within a year.