I have received many expressions of concern about the proposed shipment of ethanol by rail along lines that run through portions of my district. There are several possible routes under consideration. All options run through dense neighborhoods.
Apparently, there is no regulatory handle available to prevent these rail shipments. State regulatory powers over rail transit are “pre-empted” by federal law. And under federal law, the rail roads merely need to meet applicable regulations — there is no discretionary permit to litigate.
There is one state permit involved related to marine development on a tidelands area. That permit is pending before the state Department of Environmental Protection. I joined with a group of senators on a letter urging that DEP consider the negative safety issues. However, DEP is unlikely to be able to base its permitting decision on considerations outside the marine area.
It may be that our primary strategy should be to assure that, if these trains do in fact come (which is still months or years away), we are as prepared as we can possibly be to respond to any safety concerns.