U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano was named Ranking Member on the House Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials–a subcommittee that will oversee any future plans to ship ethanol via train into the area.
However, Capuano said he doesn’t expect Global Oil, a company that was met with widespread opposition in East Boston, Revere and Chelsea when they proposed to bring ethanol trains into the area, will revisit their former plan.
This subcommittee Capuano will be a member of oversees all aspects of rail operations such as safety, infrastructure and economic issues. It has jurisdiction over the agencies that oversee rail operations, including the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Subcommittee oversight includes Amtrak, rail safety, infrastructure and high speed travel. It also has jurisdiction over pipeline transportation issues and the transport of hazardous materials.
Last year, Senator Anthony Petruccelli, with help from Senators Sal DiDomenico and Patricia Jehlen, added language to amend the state’s Chapter 91 law. The amendment’s language aimed to block Global Oil’s proposal to bring 1.8 million gallons of ethanol by train twice a week into their facility on the East Boston/Revere border.
Because the facility is along the Chelsea Creek, Global needs a Chapter 91 license to modify the facility in order to store ethanol along the banks of the Creek.
However, Governor Deval Patrick sent the language back for further debate. Seeing the writing on the wall Global abandoned its plans to ship ethanol into the area via train.
However, Patrick eventually signed amended language in the bill that guarantees ethanol trains will not be allowed in the Boston area through at least January 2017. The law prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection from issuing an environmental license between now and January 1, 2017 for the development of railroad lines or facilities in Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Somerville, East Boston or the Chelsea Creek port area that connect to ethanol storage and blending facilities.
Last week Capuano said that state bill was only a temporary solution and it is entirely up to the federal government whether ethanol trains will be allowed into Boston.
“There’s no way the state can stop these trains from coming into the area,” said Capuano. “While I don’t think Global will be trying their proposal again there could be another company in the future that wants to do the same thing.”
Capuano said being a Democrat in a Republican controlled House with no appetite to slow or stop commerce he will focus his efforts on the subcommittee making sure the trains hauling ethanol are the best trains to haul this hazardous material.
“What we are working on is making sure these rail cars are up to snuff,” said Capuano. “There are whole new fleets of these rail cars that use the latest state of the art technology, that are double hulled and are safer than the former fleet. I think it is a fools errand to try and stop ethanol completely so we need to look at making sure they are the safest trains on the nation’s rails.”