In the wake of numerous major and minor oil train accidents across the U.S. and Canada, some states are passing legislation to establish stricter rules regarding railway freight. Both New Hampshire and Minnesota have enacted new regulations governing the transport of oil within their borders, and other states are poised to follow suit in the near future. These regulations will supplement existing federal laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation. For railway workers injured in the course of their duties, however, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) remains the most effective form of legal protection. Consulting a FELA claim lawyer can ensure that workers receive appropriate compensation for their injuries on the job. A qualified and experienced train accident attorney can negotiate the highest settlement and can ensure that these workers receive the financial support needed to manage medical bills and other ongoing expenses. Changes to Minnesota Law Minnesota's new regulations regarding oil train traffic went into effect on July 1, 2014, and set new inspection and oversight requirements while requiring additional fees and proactive safety planning from railway companies that transport oil within the state:
- Railway companies must submit disaster prevention plans and emergency response plans to the state of Minnesota.
- Railroads must also provide funding and support for emergency response training programs to be offered to fire departments located along rail lines once every three years; the Minnesota Department of Public Safety will also provide training for first responders along these routes.
- Rail companies must maintain and deploy adequate equipment to clean up any oil spills within a relatively short period of time.
- Minnesota's Department of Transportation will increase the number of railroad inspectors and will pass the costs of these new employees on to the rail companies that operate within the state.
These changes will shift much of the burden for maintaining safety and ensuring that emergency response plans are in place to rail companies and will allow for increased oversight for Minnesota rail companies. New Laws in New Hampshire In July 2014, Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire signed a bill into law that will provide funding for added oil spill emergency response training and will require pipeline facilities to provide spill response plans to the state for review. Additionally, a second bill passed by the New Hampshire Legislature and signed by the governor establishes a committee to research safer ways to deliver oil and gas within the state by rail or pipeline. These new measures are intended to provide added protections for New Hampshire residents against the dangers inherent in the transport of crude oil and natural gas. High Risk for Workers and Communities The new legislation was prompted in part by a series of oil train derailments and pipeline spills that have resulted in lost lives and extensive property damage over the past few years. The worst of these accidents occurred in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, when an unattended train loaded with oil derailed, claiming 47 lives and destroying the downtown area of this small community. Other recent oil train accidents and pipeline spills include the following:
- On April 30, 2014, an oil train derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, causing a fire and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and workers in and around the downtown area.
- The rupture of a pipeline located near Marshall, Michigan, on July 25, 2010, released more than 870,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into Talmadge Creek and subsequently into the Kalamazoo River.
- The swamps surrounding Aliceville, Alabama, still show signs of the derailment, explosion and oil spill that occurred on November 8, 2013, despite the clean-up performed by the Genesee & Wyoming railway company.
For workers who have been injured in one of these catastrophic incidents, seeking the help of a qualified railroad accident attorney can ensure a fair settlement for their injury claims. A knowledgeable FELA claim lawyer can help railway workers receive fair compensation for injuries incurred on the job and can ensure that railroad companies are held accountable for their failure to protect their employees against harm.