Train Industry Allies in U.S. Senate Move to Delay Deadline for Crash-Prevention Technology

Prodded by railroads, four lawmakers introduce bill to postpone deadline for installing high-tech safety systems. The systems, known as Positive Train Control or PTC, aim to override human error and avert deadly collisions like the Chatsworth, Calif., commuter train crash that killed 25 people in 2008. Railroads are mandated to have PTC by the end of 2015 on trains carrying passengers or extremely hazardous materials such as chlorine. But, as FairWarning reported last year, the industry has pushed hard to relax the requirement and win more time to add the costly technology. Four senators who have received political contributions from the industry recently introduced a bill to extend the deadline another five to seven years, until at least 2020. The National Transportation Safety Board has called for the safety measures for more than two decades. Over the last decade, the agency has investigated 27 train crashes that killed 63 people that it says PTC could have prevented. The Associated Press

Federal poultry inspection proposal based on bad data, investigators say. The U.S. Department of Agriculture relied on incomplete and outdated data for its plan to extend a poultry inspection program to plants across the country, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. The new procedures, piloted at 29 sites since 1998, let plants dramatically speed up processing lines and replace many government inspectors with poultry company employees, which the USDA said will boost efficiency and save money for taxpayers and consumers. In 2012, the agency proposed extending the procedures to most of the country’s 239 chicken and 96 turkey slaughterhouses. But the agency in some cases used 20-year-old data to justify its proposal, and also applied data collected from chicken plants for turkey plants, the report found. The Washington Post

Smog-choked Beijing considers car-congestion fee. To prevent the catastrophic air pollution that blanketed the city last winter, Beijing officials are mulling a plan to limit cars on the road by charging car owners fees. Auto emissions account for one-third of the fine particulate air pollutants in congested parts of the city. The fees are part of a broader plan to cut fine particulate matter in the city by 25 percent by 2017 through curbing car sales, restricting driving, lowering speed limits and cracking down on industrial polluters like power plants, cement factories and oil refineries. London and Singapore have successfully introduced congestion pricing programs. The Wall Street Journal

Citing health concerns, state attorneys general call for stricter rules for wood-burning heaters. In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, attorneys general from several states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, threatened to sue if the EPA does not update its laws governing large wood-burners used in central heating systems. The burners are a major source of air pollution in many communities, the letter said, and wood smoke increases childhood asthma and contains carcinogenic pollutants that can harm the heart and lungs. One state attorney general said the EPA has worked on standards for some time, but the group was concerned the efforts may have stalled. Currently a patchwork of state and local rules cover the burners. The EPA said it would release a proposal for new rules soon. New Haven RegisterGIMBY

Worker’s electrocution death leads to 26 safety citations at Missouri steel manufacturer. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s charges against the St. Louis Cold Drawn steel bar manufacturing plant in St. Louis, Mo., included 19 violations such as exposing workers to live electricity and failing to provide workers with appropriate safety equipment. In May, a worker was electrocuted when he reached into an electrical panel box to retrieve gloves stored there. OSHA, which proposed $51,800 in fines, in 2002 cited the company with seven violations at the plant, which employs about 90 people. OSHASt. Louis Post-Dispatch

Compiled by Bridget Huber


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