Have you sent in your first EIS letter? All the other kids are doing it.
From the first report issued from the Teamsters Rail Conference in Fall of 2005 entitled SafeRails Secure America Survey Executive Summery concerns were raised to the security of the nations rail lines: Workers suspect that the rail corporations’ lax attention to safety and security is motivated by profit margins. “Money drives this railroad,” said one Michigan Norfolk Southern worker. “Security costs money. What do you think is going on?” “(BNSF) is not going to increase security because it would cost money,” said another worker from Illinois. “Even though they had record profits, it will not happen unless they are forced.”
In 2009, four years later, a new survey of America’s rail workers reveals that top U.S. rail carriers have failed to close the security gaps that put at stake the safety of rail workers and communities across the country. The survey questions, which asked the workers to evaluate safety and security measures in place on any one workday during the survey period, were identical to the survey questions used in the first Safe Rails / Secure America survey, with the exception of two new survey questions.
SafeRails / Secure America 2 included two rounds of surveys. Workers employed by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (“BNSF”) and Norfolk Southern Corporation (“Norfolk Southern”) completed surveys between August 25, 2008, and September 19, 2008. Workers employed by CSX Corporation (“CSX”), Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific Corporation (“Union Pacific”) completed surveys between March 9, 2009, and April 6, 2009. As demonstrated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe – SafeRails / Secure America 2 table, there are several critical areas in which BNSF appears to be underperforming its peer group—most notably, the areas of employee training and rail car security.
For example, 70 percent of the BNSF BMWED workers surveyed said that they have not been trained regarding their role in the railroad’s Emergency Action Plan or Emergency Response Plan—that is 28 percentage points higher than the industry average and well over the majority mark.
Furthermore, 88 percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed reported they have not received any terrorism prevention and response training in the past year—that is 14 percentage points higher than the industry average.
In fact, for these two questions BNSF scored the worst of all the rail carriers, underperforming each of its peers.
Regarding locomotive security, 92 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said they cannot secure the cab against unauthorized access while unoccupied—that is a remarkable 25 percentage points higher than the average for the other rail carriers, excluding BNSF, putting BNSF at the bottom of its peer group.
Sixty percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said that their train or equipment was delayed or left unattended for an extended period of time prior to or during their tour of duty, with 57 percent of these workers reporting that hazardous materials were on board the delayed or unattended train. That is five and four percentage points higher, respectively, than the industry average.
Eighty-two percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said they noticed other trains or equipment left unattended in yard sidings or along the right-of-way, which is six percentage points higher than the industry average.
In all, BNSF underperformed the industry average by five percentage points or more with respect to ten survey questions.
The company significantly outperformed its peer group (by five or more percentage points) with respect to only two questions—19 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed reported seeing trespassers in the yard versus 24 percent for the industry average, and 20 percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed reported that there were additional security personnel on duty in the yard or right-of-way on a heightened terrorist alert day versus 13 percent for the industry average.
BNSF Rail Security Disclosures
BNSF’s 2008 Corporate Citizenship Report summarizes the company’s rail security efforts, which include:
• joining with other railroads through the AAR to develop a comprehensive risk analysis and security management plan for all U.S. railroads;
• developing BNSF’s own Security Management Plan and Crisis Management System;
• securing critical infrastructure and assessing high threat urban areas, focusing especially on vulnerabilities in rail facilities in highly populated areas where hazardous materials are moved;
• monitoring contractors through the E-RailSafe program, which provides background checks, security awareness training, and identification cards for contractors working on railroad property;
• maintaining the BNSF On Guard program to promote employee awareness and encourage the reporting of security violations;
• helping to develop Citizens for Rail Security, a community-based rail fan reporting program that enlists rail fans’ help in reporting security violations, trespassers or unusual occurrences;
• maintaining a Trespasser Abatement Program;
• training employees using a security awareness training module, “Securing America’s Railroads”;
• implementing a Security Alert System that warns employees of the severity of a terrorist threat and under which employees are given additional security instructions at higher threat levels; and
• conducting drills with local emergency response personnel.
See Appendix II for BNSF’s 2008 Corporate Citizenship Report’s rail security disclosures.
BNSF workers’ responses on the Safe Rails / Secure America 2 survey, however, raise questions about the effectiveness of its efforts.
For example, BNSF states that one of its key security activities is “securing critical infrastructure,” and says that it has “taken steps to secure critical assets.” However, only nine percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed said that BNSF has increased the frequency of inspections at critical infrastructure points, only three percent said that special security measures have been instituted at movable railroad bridges on their territory to protect against unauthorized entry or operations, and only three percent said that bridge tenders on movable bridges have a distress signal to alert authorities of security threats. Only eight percent of BNSF BMWED workers surveyed reported that track and bridge inspectors have received security-related training for the inspection of critical infrastructure along the right-of-way.
These results call into question just what steps BNSF has taken to secure critical infrastructure.
BNSF workers’ surveys also raise questions about the company’s efforts to acknowledge and encourage employee security awareness and action. For example, BNSF explains that it has an “On Guard” program designed “to recognize employees who protect BNSF’s resources, people and facilities.” According to the company’s website, the program is “administered by local crime prevention specialists, who will give alert employees an On Guard pin, and report the action for inclusion in articles in BNSF Today.” Notably, none of the other rail carriers discloses on its website maintaining a program of this kind that recognizes and rewards employee security awareness and reporting.
BNSF workers surveyed, however, report that they are not receiving follow-up reports when they report security concerns to their supervisors. In fact, of the 37 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed who said that they have reported security concerns to a railroad supervisor, only 16 percent said they received a follow-up to their report.
While the “On Guard” program may not specify that employees will receive follow-up reports regarding any security concerns they report, BNSF’s failure to follow up with employees after they report security concerns conflicts with the “On Guard” objective of recognizing and encouraging employee security awareness and action.
BNSF also explains that it requires employees to take a mandatory security awareness computer training module called “Securing America’s Railroad,” but only 12 percent of BNSF BMWED workers and 28 percent of BNSF BLET workers surveyed said that they have received any training related to terrorism prevention and response in the past 12 months—and only 27 percent of those BLET workers felt that the training was adequate.
Finally, BNSF discusses that its Security Alert System warns employees of the severity of a terrorist threat to the BNSF network, but when asked if it was a heightened terrorist alert day, 55 percent of the BNSF BLET and BMWED workers surveyed said that they did not know.
The discrepancies between what BNSF says it is doing and what the front-line workers report raise serious questions about whether BNSF’s rail security efforts are reaching the front-line workers.
And in more recent times:
* Forty-four spikes were removed from train tracks in Bellingham, but railroad officials say they discovered the vandalism before any trains could derail. Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said the railroad is offering rewards of up to $5,000 for information concerning several recent acts of vandalism that damaged railroad property near Bellingham and could have led to train accidents. Seattle Times July 12th, 2011
*The main BNSF rail line is shut down through southwest Washington, as BNSF police and inspectors investigate tampering along the railway from north of Vancouver to Chehalis.
Spokesman Gus Melonas says BNSF personnel discovered the tampering shortly before 11 a.m. Monday along that corridor. He says nine trains including Amtrak are being held. A limited number of freight trains are being escorted through at restricted speeds. The first incident was reported near the Longview.
Melonas says police are searching the area for suspicious activity and are investigating further.
He says the main rail lines will be closed until it's determined to be safe. The Columbian September 29, 2011
* The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the Nov. 10 vandalism to the Coos Bay rail line that caused a minor derailment.
Those responsible removed hundreds of rail spikes and tie plates through two segments of track, costing the port more than $20,000 in damages related to the stolen materials and repairs, the port says. The World December 17th, 2011
* From the meeting minutes interim CEO David Koch reports: As a result of the vandalism, the Port will incur more than $20,000 in damages
associated with the replacement of stolen materials and repairs related to the derailment. The Port and
CBR have been working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate
this crime. Based on consultations with these law enforcement agencies, it has been determined that
offering a cash reward may assist in the identification of the responsible person or persons. Mr. Koch
said staff was looking for Commission approval for the Port to offer and pay a reward up to $5,000
for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons responsible for damage
to or theft of railroad property.
Upon a motion by Commissioner Hampel (second by Commissioner McKeown), the Board of
Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the Port to offer a reward of up to $5,000 for
information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons responsible for damage
or theft of railroad property. Motion carried.
Commissioner Kronsteiner asked if the reward was for this one incident or would it be an ongoing
reward. Mr. Koch said this request is for the current incident, but he would like to have the authority
in the future if similar situations occur. Commissioner Kronsteiner wanted to clarify that it was not an
outstanding reward. Mr. Koch said it would be handled on a case-by-case basis. OREGON INTERNATIONAL PORT OF COOS BAY
Coos Bay, Oregon
SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING
Friday, December 9, 2011
The environmental and economic impacts of a train derailment impact could be assessed only after determining what was being shipped in the overturned vessel. With coal, chlorine, and radioactive waste among the various types of hazardous substances routinely carried across our railways, I’m concerned about toxic spills. Considering the controversial nature of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, my concern is for railway security as well. The vested interests in this project appear unable to perceive the need and/or unwilling to address the concerns posed by the frontline personnel of the railways. Please consider this history and the present status of railway security, and determine if it will be sufficient to insure safe transportation of 54 million tons of coal per year.
J.C. Walker, Jr.
EPA: Powder River Basin
What would nothing look like?
Ingrid Enschede posted a story in the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District on Nov. 30 2012 of the resulting efforts of Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association on Terrell Creek
The story details the reversing of decades of salmon impeded from spawning grounds by inadequate consideration in planning and development. Restoring passage ways and habitats are making a difference in the effort to thwart the declining salmon population. If one looks at the current direction in construction with regards to LEED standards or the auto industry pursuing a greater miles per gallon of their products, or the resurgence in organic farming throughout the world, an under lying theme of living with nature by recognizing our collective human footprint emerges.
Viewing the Google map in Ms. Enschede’s post, the proximity to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal’s coal port is disturbing in light of what statistically is known already with regards to coal dust:
http://www.coaltrainfacts.org/docs/coal-FAQ.pdf Whether from day to day operations ( with the best attempts to mitigate the effects ) or from an unintended spill from train derailment or maritime accidents, the vulnerability of a species in decline must be considered both from an ecological and economical point of view if a genuine attempt to pursue the rewards of living with nature for current and future generations are to be realized.
About the same time as Ms. Enschede’s posted the NSEA story, I was walking my dog around our property and saw this: http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/video/nsea-in-deming , and being that clarification as to which rail route to Cherry Point will be pursued has yet to be determined, I must ask you to include my neck of the woods and all past , present, and future projects of NSEA and all fish bearing streams as determined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife running parallel or perpendicular to any train tracks in consideration to facilitate the GPT project which could be adversely impacted by multiple daily infusions of coal dust into our waterways.
Please look at the effects of coal dust on the salmon habitat, their eggs, sperm, and numbers of and viability of both eggs and sperm when introduced to increased coal dust and determine what levels are safe for a species in decline. Please determine what plan of action will be instituted if and when your established high levels are reached. Please determine the cost to the fishing industries along with the number of related jobs lost if and when your established high levels are reached, and please make a recommendation as to who’s financial responsibility to monitor habitats and disperse and compensate for said cost if and when your established high levels are reached.
If no action were to be adopted with regards to the proposed GPT coal terminal the uphill struggle to address the declining salmon population would still be the reality with which we live, but with the successful efforts of groups such as NSEA, living with nature could be the key to providing resilience as our legacy.
In Jorgen Randers “2052” the option of short term thinking contrasted against long term thinking is brought to the forefront, where such considerations are deliberated for societal well being. With even the least amount of belief in the “extreme/new normal” events of 2012 being connected with climate change, please also consider the following. It is not our future we profit from.
I mention this to point to expected understandings of a clients appetite for Carbon products to possibly be reduced once said understandings associate Carbon use with their children’s health detriments. China would have every motive to opt for a green/low Carbon world while slowing down a run away economy as well. This sort of capability, to alter their need and alter the demand, concerns me. Short term returns rely upon a consistency of demand. I’m asking you to study the effect of altered, as in , no demand, for coal. Setting on Cherry Point. Piles and piles of coal nobody wants, because it’s screwing up the world for everybody and all. I did some googling the other day about what coal becomes when you burn it up, and the list I got came up with included Mercury, Cadmium, Sulfur Dioxide Nitrogen Oxides. Also some particular matter, like fly ash and Arsenic, some VOC’s, and a dash of Uranium. Could you do a study on how much of the stuff is staying in China, and how it would contribute to the well being of their children, and how much is going to make it back across the ocean in 5-10 days after being burned, and wind up affecting the children in Whatcom County with a myriad array of adverse conditions. What are the safe levels for children to consume in their diet or to play around. Could you study the current levels in Lake Whatcom of the chemicals I listed, and do a rough estimate of what will be coming per year on the expected amount of coal being shipped per year. I wonder how long it would go on for? Is that a realistic expectation? These are not unintended consequences, their predictable for the most part. Certainly quarterly profits are jeopardized in such a scenario, and the children.
“2052” contrast the ability of a government like China’s to respond much quicker to change than a Democracy can, so it becomes paramount to chose wisely with how profits are derived going forward, if we’re to turn around and profit from our future, shared as it may be.