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On Wednesday, scores of concerned Baltimore residents gathered in front of City Hall to rally attention to the danger posed by exploding trains carrying crude oil through the heart of our city. Our friends at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Clean Water Action helped organize the event.

CSX trains bisect Charm City; the winding route takes these dangerous vehicles by the home stadia of the Ravens and Orioles, Johns Hopkins University, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, City Hall, the Maryland Zoo and many thousands of Baltimore’s citizens.

In the Hall

After the rally, the City Council held an oversight hearing about the rail shipments of crude oil and related flammable petroleum products destined for Baltimore’s Fairfield terminal. Targa Resources seeks a port expansion permit to accommodate more crude oil shipments to refineries along the East Coast. At the hearing, the Maryland Department of Transportation Director testified:

DOT does not feel that the City Council need take legislative or regulatory action addressing crude oil…

Recently, the federal government issued an underwhelming crude by rail rule. Speed limits, retrofits, and a number to call in the event of tragedy don’t cut it for real protections. Even though the feds generally control the railroads, Marylanders have options.

What’s a City to Do?

Councilman Reisinger is considering a city wide emergency response assessment. Del. Lam has asked the state for a risk study. We can impose fines, build more crossing guards, even pass better electrical, plumping, and fire codes to protect public health and safety. In addition, we can pass zoning and occupational ordinances regulating third party non-railroad carriers.

The crude by rail industry needs to provide Marylanders with more than just an emergency contact number. Communities in the blast zone face exploding oil train accidents every six weeks or so. We see larger train numbers, greater safety risks, and less transparency. The true costs of oil are too high; now is the time for a Charm City moratorium on crude by rail while we seek safe and cleaner alternatives.

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