State Transportation Leaders Call on Railroad Companies to Honor State Law and Commitment to Public Safety

St. Paul, Minn. – The 2023 Transportation Omnibus Bill included changes in state law reinstating assessments to railroads and pipeline companies to be used to pay for emergency preparedness, training, and staffing costs. Despite this new law, railroad companies have announced that they will flout the law and will refuse to fulfill their obligation to Minnesotans to improve safety and security from the threats their industry is responsible for.

In response, Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), House Transportation Committee Chair Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), and Senate author of the original legislation that was passed, Senator Rob Kupec (DFL-Moorhead), released the following statement:

“The decision by railroad companies to ignore their obligation to public safety by refusing to pay for safety inspections of Minnesota rail networks is extremely troubling.

“Across the country, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of derailments and other incidents requiring an emergency response due to railroads’ neglect of critical safety measures, including here in Minnesota. This is why we passed a law in 2023 requiring railroad companies to participate in funding Minnesota’s emergency preparedness costs, and training and staffing costs that they cause. An industry that sacrifices safety in pursuit of financial gain, reaps 20% profits coming to a cumulative $25 billion, should not be further boosting their margins by cutting back on their responsibilities and forcing the public to pick up their tab.

“The Minnesota Legislature has oversight of the rail networks within Minnesota, and a solemn duty to look out for the safety and security of Minnesotans. We are bound by our offices to hold those responsible and to account when their actions undermine safety. We urge railroad companies to reverse course and respect the laws and the people of Minnesota and take action to protect our communities. Actions are louder than words. Railroads’ claims of concern for safety, in light of this action and their continual resistance to any and all policies to reduce their ever-climbing rates of accidents and derailments rings hollow. 

“If you doubt us, ask the people of Raymond how they felt at 1 a.m. the night of March 30 last year when they were ripped from their beds and forced to flee their homes because of a fiery derailment caused by a broken track–or how they feel months later with the persistence of contamination in the soil and water of cancer-causing chemicals. Or ask the people who live in downtown Minneapolis, or Cook, or Lancaster, or Field Township, or Sauk Rapids, or Gorham Township, or those near any one of the 344 train derailments, which includes 217 train cars carrying hazardous materials that were damaged, that occurred in Minnesota from 2012 to 2022 how they feel about the railroad industry’s lack of regard for them, their health, their environment, their safety and their feeling of security in their homes and communities.”

In a March 11 letter to the Association of American Railroads, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg noted “major resistance” from the rail industry in response to efforts to improve safety, and called on rail companies to work with regulators to improving safety. 

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Senate DFL Media