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Better Protections on Transporting Hazardous Materials

WHEREAS, Transportation of hazardous materials continues to cause disproportionate impacts in Black communities and other communities that are considered "sacrifice zones" without better protections in place; and

WHEREAS, In 2021 alone, there were at least 1,049 trains that derailed, with ten involved spilling hazardous material; and

WHEREAS, When the train derailed in February 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio, it was carrying Vinyl Chloride, Stabilized (5); Sulfuric Acid (5); Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether (1); Butyl Acrylate, Stabilized (2); Combustible Liquids, n.o.s. (1); 4 Isobutylene (1) Ethyl-Hexyl Acrylate(1); Empty Residue – last contained liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) (1); Residue – last contained Benzene (2); and

WHEREAS, The Ohio River, which provides drinking water for five million people detected butyl acrylate immediately following the derailment; and

WHEREAS, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not immediately test for highly toxic dioxins, despite the possibility of these groupings of pollutants which can cause cancer; and

WHEREAS, When the train derailed in Raymond, Minnesota in March 2023, it was carrying hazardous material, including ethanol, which caused four cars to catch on fire; and

WHEREAS, In April 2023, a tractor-trailer spilled over 20,000 pounds of contaminated soil that was being transported from the train derailment earlier this year; and

WHEREAS, Trucks still carry the largest percentage of hazardous materials shipped in the United States; and

WHEREAS, In 2016, the Office of Inspector General issued a report to the Federal Railroad Administrator, stating that inspectors were issuing lax penalties for violators of hazmat cargo regulations and failing to refer bad actors for criminal penalties; and

WHEREAS, The National Transportation Safety Board (the "Board") has testified before the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Examining Freight Rail Safety that union participation is needed in railroad incidents as well as other relevant organizations that increases rail worker safety; and

WHEREAS, The Board observed that there was not enough separation between cars carrying hazardous materials and that available train braking systems that would mitigate derailments were not being used as well as a standard that allows for 16 minutes and 30 seconds between communication checks regarding emergency brake signal issues; and

WHEREAS, Members of the Senate asked the Board to review whether it needs additional funding for increased train inspection time as workers currently get 30 to 45 seconds; and

WHEREAS, The 1990 Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to prevent chemical plant disasters at their source, which could mean safer processes and chemicals carried through communities; and

WHEREAS, States are supposed to have sites to treat contaminated soil, but for certain hazardous waste, it must be disposed in toxic waste incinerators, and known to be disproportionately located in communities of color; and

WHEREAS, The EPA only has about 450 of 1,800 hazardous waste sites that have been prioritized by the agency that could be removed from the EPA's priority list with extensive cleanup, however, East Palestine is not on the hazardous waste site priority list meaning the timing of cleanup is unknown; and

WHEREAS, The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that governs hazardous waste disposal and handling of those materials along with the Toxic Substance Control Act that regulates disposal of chemicals are opportunities to create strong protections for community members; and

WHEREAS, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) advances environmental and climate justice and takes a holistic approach to environmental health and worker safety based on environmental concerns demands stronger protections regarding rail worker safety and road-based driver safety, handling of chemical and other hazardous materials, more buffers in between cars carrying hazardous materials, increased time for inspections, more frequent checks for braking issues, as well as stronger regulations for road-based hazardous material transportation.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the NAACP also demands that federal agencies, such as the US Department of Transportation and EPA, ensure that Black communities and other frontline communities are not sacrifice zones for soil contamination and disposal, as well as air and water quality issues, when considering transportation and disposal of hazardous waste and material.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the NAACP demands the Biden Administration review existing environmental statutes and use of those statutes to protect sacrifice zones as well as utilize federal funding to and mandates for resources into those communities.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, NAACP units will continue to advocate for more community health options, air, water, and soil quality testing, and input regarding transportation of hazardous waste and demand transparency to ensure Black communities and other excluded communities do not bear the brunt of these incidents.