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O’Connell’s Rail-Safety Bill Clears Legislature

A rail-safety bill that would require detailed cargo lists on trains carrying hazardous materials has cleared the state Legislature, its sponsor announced Tuesday.

The measure must be signed by Gov. Pete Wilson to become law.

The bill was introduced after a Southern Pacific train derailed in Seacliff on July 28 and spilled a load of aqueous hydrazine that forced the closure of the Ventura Freeway for five days.

Assemblyman Jack O’Connell (D-Carpinteria) sponsored the measure.

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Hazardous material teams said cleanup efforts in Seacliff were delayed because the train’s manifest did not specify the exact type and amount of chemicals that the train carried or the type of container.

Besides requiring more detailed cargo lists, the rail-safety bill would require rail companies to notify local authorities immediately when a spill occurs, foster cooperation between local and state agencies and permit Cal/OSHA officials to respond to the scene.

A provision that would have required trains hauling hazardous materials to include a caboose was deleted during Senate deliberations.

The Assembly concurred 51 to 23 with the Senate’s version, sending the bill to the governor for his approval.

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After the vote, O’Connell said the measure will ensure prompt response to rail disasters that involve toxic substances.

“We were extremely lucky that in all of the recent train derailments, no loss of life occurred,” O’Connell said. “Had the train at Seacliff derailed a few miles sooner, or a few miles later, hundreds if not thousands of people would have been at risk.”


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