When Reality and Politics Collide: Midnight Rule Change in Light of Recent Derailments

Two trains derailed early this morning1 near Dresback, Minnesota. There were only two reported injuries -- two railroad employees were taken to the hospital with minor injuries -- but the area was evacuated due to a leak caused by the crash. Some articles report a leak of both propane (from a switching station) and liquid ammonia from one of the cars, other news bits report just one or the other.

Two of the derailed cars (at least) plummeted into the Mississippi River.

The NTSB will be investigating, but some initial reports indicate that the two trains collided by "sideswiping" each other. For the most detailed and up-to-date information, check out the story in the Star Tribune.

By itself, this incident is obviously newsworthy. Taken in context with news from the other day about another "midnight rule change" by the Bush Administration, and it sounds downright ominous...

From the Midday Open Thread for Tuesday, 16 December 2008:

  • Another midnight rule change from the Bush administration:

    The Bush administration has finalized a controversial regulation that will allow railroads to continue to ship dangerous chemicals through major cities.

    That has infuriated some city officials, security experts, and environmentalists because it preempts all local efforts to control if, when, and how those railroad tank cars move through their communities.

    Federal security officials have long considered railroad tankers full of such chemicals as chlorine or anhydrous ammonia to be potential weapons of mass destruction. If attacked by a terrorist or disturbed individual in the middle of a city they could cause thousands of deaths.

    -- Plutonium Page

These guys have fantastic timing, don't they? It almost makes you want to pick up copies of The Wrecking Crew by Thomas Frank or The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kline -- perhaps both -- and drop 'em onto coffee tables around the nation.

Of course, accidents are the exception rather than the rule. It's not like derailments happen every day or that there could be valid reasons why such a rule change might not be in the public's best interest.

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Footnotes

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1 Some articles researched for this report indicate that the incident was called in to the local police and fire stations around 1:00 am, others report that the fire chief was saying the incident occurred at 5:30 am -- so there's some conflicting information out there.

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should link to the correct Amazon page for each and use the ePluribus Media reference code, so hopefully anyone purchasing them will also do their bit to help support our efforts.

It's no only that we need a big stimulus program and investing in infrastructure will create much-needed jobs -- don't get me wrong, I think that's fine -- but we ABSOLUTELY need a major infrastructure overhaul and expansion.

carol

Nobody hurt, though they did evacuate a Vets Nursing Home as a precaution.  Liquid propane leaking some, a nitrogen leak, and diesel in the water.  Overall, considering what could have happened there is little environmental damage.  Physical injury was light also - sounds like anyone sent to hospital was dismissed.

 

Trains were going in different directions and the overall reaction is total befuddlement.  I'm serious, you listen to anyone with expertise being interviewed and the furrowed brows come thru plain as day.

 

Amtrak routes interrupted 'tween the Cities and Chicago, but ridership wasn't that heavy.  Interstate travel not bothered a bit other than "look-i-lous".  Interstate runds parallel to the tracks.  The main sufferer seems to be a Canadian Train System Owner. 

 

All in all, sounds like a lot of luck was spilled more than blood or valuables.

Reminds me of the "curiously coincidental" incident at the time of the Alito confirmation hearings -- a piece of the facade over the "Justice" portion of a relief above the entrance of the Supreme Court collapsed.

This incident, right after the news breaking of the Bush Administration's midnight rule change regarding hazardous cargoes shipped through cities, just seems like a bit of cosmic synchronicity...and, like the collapse of the facade over the Supreme Court, a warning of dark potent and potential disaster.