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Judge: Train Companies Must Prepare for Oil Spills

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PHOTO: Companies running oil trains in California will be required to have a spill-response plan. Photo credit: vladyslav-danilin/shutterstock
PHOTO: Companies running oil trains in California will be required to have a spill-response plan. Photo credit: vladyslav-danilin/shutterstock
 By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA - Producer, Contact
June 26, 2015

Railroad companies soon won't be able to carry oil in California unless they have a safety plan - and put aside lots of money to cover any future spills. That's because a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed an industry lawsuit last week against California's new railroad safety law.

Patti Goldman, managing attorney for Earthjustice, said the precautions required are common sense.

"All other industries, like the tankers that carry the oil, the refiners, the pipelines, all of them prepare these oil-spill response plans," she aaid. "It's time for the railroads to do the same."

Railroad companies had argued that federal law pre-empts states' regulation of the railroads.

Goldman said the companies now will have more incentive to get the training, equipment and communications systems in place to prevent the worst-case scenario.

"They improve their practices. They can't get financial assurances if they're being really risky," she said. "And they figure out how to handle the oil better so that they won't have a spill."

California's railroad safety law will go into effect once regulations are finalized.

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