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Group wants ‘bomb trains’ rerouted around Limerick plant

Montgomery County, Pa.

A Tri-County environmental advocacy group has asked federal, state and local officials to reroute railroad tracks that carry crude oil near the Limerick Nuclear Generating station to prevent a disaster in a derailment.

Norfolk Southern and Limerick officials counter that there are safety features in place to respond to fires and other derailment hazards.

Alliance for a Clean Environment, or ACE, which has 1,000 members, mailed packets of information Monday warning officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf, that regular trains carrying crude oil, which they call “bomb trains,” are traveling within about one-eighth of a mile of the plant.

Dr. Lewis C. Cuthbert, ACE president, said the organization became aware in the last year of derailments and explosions in the U.S. and has been researching the issue.

“ACE would like to reroute the train to prevent a possible disaster,” Cuthbert said.

But rerouting the trains is not that simple.

The tracks are owned by Norfolk Southern, which is required by federal law to haul hazardous materials, including crude oil, said Dave Pidgeon, a railroad spokesman.

Pidgeon said Norfolk Southern does not own the vast majority of tankers and that if a shipper gives the railroad a crude oil tank train that meets federal safety standards, Norfolk Southern must haul it.

Pidgeon emphasized that Norfolk Southern is a strong advocate for strengthening federal tank car safety standards, noting that it conducts routine safety exercises with local, state and federal agencies.

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“Safety isn’t just a good business practice, it’s also personal,” Pidgeon said. “Norfolk Southern employs more than 4,600 people in Pennsylvania, and they come from places like Pottstown, Reading, Phoenixville, Royersford and more.

“Our employees and their families use the same parks, fish the same rivers and so on. There’s plenty of personal incentive to make sure we’re moving every train safely.”

Dana Melia, spokeswoman for the Limerick station, which provides power to 2 million homes in the region, noted the tracks are not on the plant’s property.

Melia also said the plant has multiple safety systems and is prepared to respond to fires, earthquakes and other extreme weather-related events.

Municipal, state and federal officials said they have received the packets and plan to discuss the issue.

Michael A. Moyer, an East Coventry Township supervisor, applauded ACE for contacting public officials about the potential for a catastrophe.

“It’s absolutely outrageous to allow these ‘bomb trains’ within less than 700 feet of a nuclear reactor,” Moyer said.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, said he received the packet from ACE and noted he has pushed for tougher rules on crude oil trains to protect communities.

Casey is concerned about the impact trains traveling at high speeds and loaded with flammable materials could have on communities. He has proposed legislation to get older cars off the tracks.

This article was written by Holly Herman from Reading Eagle, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.