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.
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.