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Hickenlooper Amendment to Train Volunteer First Responders to Respond to East Palestine Type Disasters Passes Committee

May 15, 2023

Hickenlooper’s amendment was included in the bipartisan Railway Safety Act, which strengthens safety requirements for trains carrying hazardous materials

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper applauded the inclusion of his amendment in the Railway Safety Act to increase emergency response capacity in rural communities to future hazardous material disasters. Both the Railway Safety Act and Hickenlooper’s amendment passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee last Wednesday and now proceeds to the full Senate for a vote.

“If a train disaster like the one in East Palestine, Ohio were to happen near us, our volunteer firefighters would likely be in a remote, mountainous area, through forests and along rivers. Our amendment helps prepare for that possibility,” said Hickenlooper.

The Railway Safety Act strengthens safety requirements and increases accountability for rail carriers transporting hazardous materials to prevent tragedies such as the train derailment that occurred in February in East Palestine, Ohio from happening again. 

The legislation modernizes an existing Department of Transportation (DOT) grant program for states and Tribes to develop plans and train for emergency response incidents involving the transport of hazardous materials. Hickenlooper’s amendment directs DOT to add consideration for local entities with a high proportion of volunteer emergency responders to the agency’s grant decision-making process.

Hickenlooper’s amendment follows a 2018 National Academies of Science report on the transport of hazardous materials that showed an acute need to improve emergency response in rural communities, which are typically served by fire departments with large volunteer forces.

For full text of the amendment, click HERE. For full video of the hearing, click HERE.


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