Supervisor Kathryn Barger is scheduled to introduce a motion at the next Board of Supervisors meeting instructing county staff to assess and report on Los Angeles County’s level of preparedness and general disaster response readiness in the wake of recent significant train derailments.
On Feb. 3, a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, causing thousands of residents to evacuate for days. Thursday, a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in Van Buren Township, Michigan.
Barger’s motion will call on Los Angeles County’s Office of Emergency Management to assess and report on the county’s level of preparedness and general disaster response readiness in the event that a similar situation should take place in Los Angeles County.
“Freight rail plays a critical role in the delivery of goods and commodities in our region and beyond, since Los Angeles County is home to the largest port in North America,” said Barger. “Our county has one of the seven Class I Rail Corridors in the nation. The corridors are shared by commuter, intercity, and freight rail operators and are located near populated areas and residential communities, so it is important for our board to understand how the county can and would respond to potential derailments and disasters.”
One of the county’s rail lines runs through the Santa Clarita Valley, connected to the San Fernando Vally by a 6,966.5-foot tunnel. At the time of its completion in 1876, it was the third longest tunnel in the United States and fourth longest in the world, according to scvhistory.com.
The rail line through the SCV carries both Metrolink commuter trains and Union Pacific freight trains.
At the time of this publication, Union Pacific representatives were unavailable for an interview. Union Pacific released an official statement to The Signal:
“Union Pacific shares the same goals as our customers and the communities we serve – to deliver every tank car safely. We are required by federal law to transport chemicals and other hazardous commodities that Americans use daily, including fertilizer, ethanol, crude oil and chlorine.”
“Union Pacific has a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year emergency critical center and a robust emergency management plan in place that is activated in the event of an emergency. We also have hazardous materials management teams placed regionally throughout our network to prevent, prepare and respond to emergency events.”
“Union Pacific is using new technology and education to reduce variability and risks of derailment, and we are enhancing our training programs and re-emphasizing our safety culture through a joint effort with our union partners,” the statement added. “Railroads are the safest mode of transportation, delivering more than 99.9% of the hazardous commodities (to) their destination safely, without a release.”
The next L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled Feb. 28.