The Cambridge legislative delegation invites residents, homeowners, local businesses, and community organizations to join them for two public forums about a plan proposed by Global Partners to transport ethanol through the City of Cambridge using the existing rail system. To facilitate participation, two forums will be held. The first meeting will occur on June 4 at 5:30pm at the King Open School, 850 Cambridge St., Cambridge. The second meeting will take place on June 5 at 6:15pm at Graham and Parks School, 44 Linnaean St., Cambridge.
Representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will present the findings of their ethanol safety study and answer questions from the public. Following this presentation, elected officials will facilitate an open discussion about the proposed plan and explore opportunities for public involvement.
The meetings will be hosted by the Cambridge legislative delegation, including Representatives Toomey, Decker, Rogers, and Hecht, and Senators Petruccelli, Jehlen, and DiDomenico.
MassDOT’s ethanol safety study and related documents can be found at http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/planning/Main/CurrentStudies/EthanolSafetyStudy.aspx
Any questions regarding the meeting may be directed to Dan Weber at Daniel.Weber@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380.
Note: Here’s what Congressman Mike Capuano had to say about this in an Apr 26 letter that’s included in the agenda materials for the Monday, June 3 Cambridge City Council meeting:
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Michael E. Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
April 26, 2013
Mayor Henrietta Davis
Cambridge City Hall
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Dear Mayor Davis:
I am writing to you in response to recent correspondence I received from the Cambridge City Council regarding a proposal to bring ethanol through several Massachusetts communities by rail. I understand the Council’s concerns and support its efforts to find a safer way to transport ethanol through heavily populated areas.
As you know, my office approaches all issues honestly, even when I expect the response may not be what is hoped for. Therefore, I am compelled to inform the Council it is my understanding that neither federal nor state law seems to provide ways to prevent ethanol from being transported through any community. There are laws and regulations available to ensure safety, but bans on the transport of hazardous materials have not been upheld in court. The Council may know that the Washington DC City Council enacted a ban on hazmat transportation through the city, but it was struck down in federal court. As far as I know, no other city has passed legislation banning the transit of hazardous materials and had the ban stand up in court. Of course, if others can identify alternative paths to judicial success, I stand ready to support them.
I am sure the Council realizes that ethanol is currently transported by rail through many urban, rural and suburban communities all over the country, including in Massachusetts. It is my understanding that the Cambridge Fire department is informed pursuant to state and federal regulation of such transits and is prepared to handle emergencies related to them. I have been informed that any local or state restrictions imposed on rail transportation of hazmat are pre-empted by interstate commerce regulations. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) informs me that they do not have jurisdiction to deny ethanol or other hazardous materials transit and do not have the authority to require the use of certain routes. The FRA does regulate track safety, street crossings, operational requirements and the integrity of tanker cars. I have asked that the FRA carefully review the integrity of the infrastructure that could be used for ethanol transport and I am confident this request will be supported.
It is my understanding that substantial work must be undertaken on the rail line that connects to Global Petroleum’s ethanol facility in Revere. Improvements may also be necessary elsewhere on the routing lines under consideration before they may be used for ethanol trains. I am confident that FRA will only allow ethanol trains on lines that meet FRA safety and operational standards and I will work hard to ensure that this confidence is well placed.
I have also reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). It is my understanding that EPA does not have a role in allowing or disallowing the transportation of ethanol. TSA informed me that ethanol is not a Rail Security Sensitive Material (RSSM) and therefore TSA does not require additional safety and/or security measures for its transportation. Please note that if ethanol were deemed an RSSM, it is my understanding that TSA still could not prohibit it. Given that the storage facility is along the water, the USCG is required to approve the facility’s security procedures. I have long experience with the Coast Guard and am confident this is a responsibility that the USCG takes very seriously.
While I regret that my initial review of the matter indicates ethanol transport cannot be prohibited, I believe my office can be helpful in other areas. One suggestion would be to have city public safety officials assess the city and region’s preparedness for a release of ethanol. I have read the MassDOT report on ethanol and understand that area fire chiefs believe there is a need for staff training and equipment. My office stands ready to aggressively support any municipal or state effort to access federal funding or seek mitigation. I also strongly support making sure first responders are informed in a timely fashion when ethanol will be transported.
Although I am not optimistic that I can prevent this proposal from being implemented, I will continue doing everything I can to be sure that the interests of our communities are protected. Particularly in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings, I understand the unease you may feel and the desire to make sure that everything possible is done to protect public safety. Please keep my office informed of the Council’s actions and any support I can offer in your endeavors.
Michael E. Capuano
Member of Congress