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Christie’s DEP Less Aggressive Than Louisiana in Response to Toxic Train Derailment

Another Toxic Train Derailment Highlights Need for Stricter Regulation

Louisiana Gov. Involved, Immediate Evacuations, Public Given Accurate Scientific Warnings – But Not One Word From Gov. Christie

Lessons Learned From NJ’s Failures in Paulsboro Last Year

[Updates below]

Yesterday, there was another toxic train derailment involving vinyl chloride, this time in Louisiana – see:

The accident highlights unacceptable risks and the need for stricter rail and chemical safety laws and regulations, particularly for a densely populated state like NJ, with hundreds of thousands of people at risk as a result of living nearby chemical plants and rail lines.

But a really interesting set of conclusions arise from the contrast between how Louisiana and NJ officials responded to the derailment.

You don’t have to even read those articles to note glaring contrasts with last fall’s Paulsboro NJ train derailment – just read the headlines.

Note that even the headline blares that vinyl chloride is some very dangerous stuff.

But in NJ, emergency reponders and the public were LIED to about the risks of the chemical vinyl chloride, leading to multiple lawsuits by well over 100 residents and emergency responders.

But that’s not all the headline tells us.

Note that the State government is involved and that the State spokesperson is the Governor.

Governor Jindal not only is involved and on top of the situation and the science, but he even visited the site.

We have not heard one single word from Gov. Christie about the trauma suffered by the people of Paulsboro, the safety of the emergency responders, the dangers of train derailments, and the risks of toxic chemicals.

Not one word (for early community reaction to that, see  New Jersey Governor Christie continues to ignore Paulsboro residents).

(nothing from Gov. Christie, even as the Pausboro train bridge collapse became a national poster child for crumbling infrastructure)

But there are even more significant contrasts.

In Louisiana, the vinyl chloride had not even leaked, yet there was an evacuation in a 1 mile radius.

In contrast, after a catastrophic release of vinyl chloride, the people of Paulsboro were told to “shelter in place”, with only a small initial evacuation zone which expanded as emergency responders got pressure from critics.

The Paulsboro derailment was the subject of a recent series of investigatory hearings by the National Transportation Safety Board – I plan to write about that soon.

But one things seems clear: Louisiana has avoided and/or learned from the major mistakes made by NJ in Paulsboro.

Another sad fact is even clearer:

NJ – once a national leader in chemical risk management and emergency response –  is lagging behind and less aggressive than Louisiana.

This is another legacy of Governor Christie’s “regulatory relief” policy under Executive Order #2.

[Update #1: I tried to find data on the Town (or Parish) and people where the derailment occurred.

My hypothesis was they they were poor, black, and minority – these populations suffer disproportionate burdens of environmental and health risks and undesirable land uses, like railroad lines and chemical plants –  textbook environmental injustice.

Looks like I was right: Wiki

The racial makeup of the parish was 56.51% White, 42.13% Black or African American,  0.14% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.01%Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. 0.91% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 16.7% reported speaking French or Cajun French at home.[8]

The median income for a household in the parish was $22,855, and the median income for a family was $28,908. Males had a median income of $29,458 versus $18,473 for females. The per capita income for the parish was $12,042. About 24.70% of families and 29.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.70% of those under age 18 and 27.50% of those age 65 or over.

But the fellow conservative Republican Gov. is far more open and responsive in Louisiana than NJ – shame on Christie.

[Update #2:  More contrast – keep in mind that NJ experienced at actual catastrophic release of vinyl chloride. That has not happened in the Louisiana derailment, but the Gov. there is taking precautions and has a evacuation in place.

Jindal declares state of emergency due to train derailment, hazardous leaks

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