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MN lawmakers demand access to railroad emergency plans

Minnesota railroad officials have come under direct scrutiny recently. Some Minnesota lawmakers, along with local government officials, have demanded that Minnesota railroad officials publicize the emergency plans that they drafted and submitted to the state relating to dealing with disasters that involve trains that are transporting oil.

Minnesota railroad companies were forced to draft and submit these plans after legislation was introduced recently that made it a requirement under state law. In total, the Minnesota law required five railroads to submit their plans to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). However, those companies have thus far refused to share their emergency plans with the public at large. Their refusal has prompted the outcry from lawmakers and local government officials for greater transparency with the public.

Local emergency management directors and other officials representing local counties within the state have voiced their concerns that they were not consulted by the railroad companies when the emergency contingency plans were drafted. County officials as well as lawmakers fear that the railroad companies' emergency plans may not be congruent with the county's emergency procedures, and the two may in fact end up inadvertently stepping on each other's toes and hampering aid in the event of a railroad accident.

Recently, the MPCA finally relented and a spokesperson with the agency said that local emergency officials interested in looking over the disaster plans will be allowed to do so but only in-person at the agency's offices. Once the railroads' privacy concerns have been addressed, the plans will be released to the public at large.

Railroad accidents have been in the news of late, and having access to emergency plans is one way of knowing if companies have planned for such an event and on how to address it.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, "MN lawmakers want access to railroad emergency plans," Tim Pugmire, July 7, 2015

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