US President Barack Obama has signed into law S. 546, which aims to provide first responders resources and tools to handle hazardous spills from crude-oil train derailments and other accidents, on Dec. 16, said the measure’s sponsor, US Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
The Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation (RESPONSE) bill became law just days before the third anniversary of the Dec. 30, 2013, derailment of a crude-oil train in Casselton, ND, which prompted her to introduce it on Feb. 24, 2015, Heitkamp said.
She wanted to make certain that first responders are prepared to handle the transportation of crude oil on the rails, especially since many of them in rural communities like Casselton are volunteers, the senator said.
The law will establish a public-private council that combines emergency responders, federal agencies, and leading experts to review training and best practices for first responders. This council—co-chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration—will provide Congress with recommendations on how to address first responders’ safety needs with increased railway safety challenges so they can best protect communities across the country, Heitkamp said.
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