My heart goes out to the people of East Palestine, Ohio. Their world was turned upside down last month when 11 of his Norfolk Southern railcars, containing dangerous chemicals, went off the tracks and capsized. Controlled venting created a plume of toxic gases that threatened the health and safety of a population of 4,700.
Last week, the bipartisan Railroad Safety Act of 2023 was introduced into the House and Senate, prompting the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to revise the definition of “high-risk flammable trains” to include at least one railcar containing flammable materials. I requested that all trains be included. .
The federal law also mandates minimum inspection time for railcars and mandates a crew of at least two. Rail companies must notify state emergency systems if hazardous materials are being transported, provide toxic material training for railroad employees, and develop emergency response plans. Detectors to warn crew of overheated bearings have also been improved, raising the maximum fines for safety violations.
The EPA has ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for the decontamination costs. Earlier this year, the company announced record earnings for his 2022 and unveiled a “bold” new strategic plan to create long-term shareholder value. However, according to the January 23rd earnings report, Norfolk Southern’s accident rate has also increased each year for the past four years.
It is too late for the Eastern Palestinian community to benefit from these reforms. Its residents should be concerned about the long-term health effects of contaminated soil and water. But if the law is passed, it may save other small rural communities from similar nightmares.
Across the industry, the adoption of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) has eliminated nearly a third of rail jobs over the past six years. A 25% increase in average train distances since 2008 is also a red flag. Members of the railroad union nearly went on strike last year to protest working conditions.
The derailment was not an isolated disaster
The people of Iowa should not dismiss what happened in East Palestine, Ohio, as an isolated catastrophe. This is part of the pattern of American companies and corporations externalizing the cost of doing business to Americans.
Pollution is a major external cost. On December 8, his C6-Zero, a rubble recycling plant, exploded in Marengo, Iowa. Parts of the town of 2,435 were evacuated, and more than a dozen workers had to seek treatment at the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinic.
When first responders and paramedics arrived on the scene, they had no idea what dangerous chemicals were in the factory. because he refused to provide it to Instead, it claimed it was exempt from permit regulations because it was not a recycling plant.
A fire less than a mile (1.6 km) from the Iowa River contaminated soil and created a large runoff pool of contaminated water. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources was denied access to the facility until February.
Cleanup is finally underway after C6-Zero funds a state-hired cleaning company. The Iowa DNR had been informed that the plant owner was facing extradition to Texas for illegal dumping of shingles, and that the company was in trouble at its Colorado site. However, C6-Zero was allowed to operate in Iowa without proper permits, outsourcing the risks and costs of doing business to people in the Marengo community.
carbon capture pipeline
One argument for building the Dakota Access Pipeline across Iowa and allowing private companies to take advantage of eminent domain is that it would be safer to transport crude oil from shale drilling in North Dakota than by rail. It was meant to be. (However, the pipeline connects to his oil-by-rail hub in Patka, Illinois, also owned by Energy Transfer Partners.) The Iowa Public Utilities Commission said transportation safety is critical to future pipeline leaks. agreed that the “public interest” outweighs the potential risks of , damage to topsoil, and land grabbing from farmers.
A major debate currently underway in the Iowa Legislature is the use of CO2 to capture, transport, and permanently store CO2, a colorless, odorless, non-flammable gas that can form plumes that threaten human health. Secondly, it is mainly to build underground pipelines from ethanol plants. Farmers and landowners are trying to convince Iowa legislators to protect long-term investments in topsoil, tiles, and agriculture. Rural residents have also expressed concern that their communities would be vulnerable in the event of a carbon pipeline leak.
This risk is not far off. In 2020, more than 200 people were evacuated and 50 were treated for a liquefied carbon pipeline leak in Satasha, Mississippi. None of the sheriff’s deputies or volunteer firefighters had emergency training on CO2 leaks.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which operates under the U.S. Department of Transportation, has issued the largest ever $3,866,734 fine. The company underestimated the potential size of the affected area and delayed informing authorities, according to the report.
The new rules are encouraging, according to the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust, but they weren’t written before some companies planned to begin construction on the 681-mile stretch of Iowa. is not.
There are now 5,000 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines in the United States, most of which are to enhance oil recovery. It is estimated that 30,000 to 65,000 miles of pipelines will be required to address climate change. Iowans living along these pipelines, as well as first responders and firefighters, many of whom are volunteers, will be exposed to these risks. Company owners and shareholders will enjoy tax credits and move on before the actual feasibility of carbon storage is determined.
the past is prologue
Iowa has a history of allowing livestock operators to outsource the costs of doing business. The industrial scale business he started in the 1980s and continues today. Many local small, sustainable pig farmers have been forced out of pig farming in the name of ‘efficiency’. The most important justification is to lower the cost of food to the consumer.
The CEO of Summit Carbon’s parent group was at the forefront of Iowa’s swine industry consolidation. He then sold the business and moved to ethanol. Residents living next to Iowa waterways and the stench from these confinements were to be affected. But lawmakers in Iowa have passed laws that reduce the ability of neighboring property owners to successfully pursue lawsuits. In 2017, the Iowa DNR conducted a satellite survey of animal confinement and he found 5,000 operations. Many had never applied for a building permit.
Climate change is the worst example of what can happen when profits take precedence over people and the costs of doing business are externalized. Most of the climate impacts that Americans and people around the world endure today are in the name of capitalism. Companies argue that it costs too much to protect human life, health, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
Unfortunately, the constant pursuit of efficiency has allowed almost all other considerations to override. Certainly practices and systems such as Precision Scheduled Railroading and longer, heavier trains may be more efficient, but that does not mean they are in the national interest. It is said that it should. Yet elected officials in governments and democracies need to be better positioned to judge national interests than corporations and markets.
Firms are free to pursue their own interests, deny evidence of harmful effects, restrict regulations requiring air brakes, or add powerful tank cars to trains carrying dangerous chemicals. Combat regulations that require That’s why we need child labor laws and workers’ compensation insurance.
Unfortunately, what we see in Iowa today is that many elected officials do their best to elevate corporations (and the private sector) over people. Taxpayer dollars are being siphoned off to privatize education. Private property, a fundamental value of the capitalist system, will almost certainly be sacrificed for liquid carbon dioxide pipelines built by private companies. Companies like Marengo are allowed to flout state regulations designed to protect people’s health and safety.
After all, capitalism is a market economic system. But the United States is not just a market nation that exists apart from the reality of its economic impact on humanity. We are a nation of people and need a well-regulated capitalist system. Local, state and national officials must ensure that businesses and people do not pollute our water, soil and air. Government power must be used to balance excess business.
In fact, President Biden could use one of his original veto powers to allow pension fund advisers to make ESG (environmental, social and governance) investments. The Labor Department rule overturns Trump-era rules requiring advisers to consider only the best returns. Republicans describe it as “awakened capitalism.” Twenty-five states, including Iowa, have called for the rule to be blocked.
A simple question: Why shouldn’t advisors be allowed to consider climate change risks, fair wage practices or gender diversity? Why shouldn’t a good company suffer the consequences? It’s time to align individual and collective interests for the common good of this country and the state of Iowa. As John Stuart Mill wrote in his essay on Freedom, “The only purpose for which power can be justly exercised against a member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. is.
This article was originally published on Cheryl Tevis’ blog Unfinished Business and is republished here via Iowa Writers’ Collaborative.
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