Trump team guts rule that would have made trains safer


The White House keeps putting big business interests ahead of Americans' safety.

The Trump administration has repealed an Obama-era safety regulation that could have prevented deadly, explosive train crashes — proving once again that not even the most common-sense policies are safe in the Trump era.

The 2015 rule mandated that trains carrying crude oil must phase out traditional air brakes and replace them with more modern brake technology, The Hill reports.

The Obama administration passed the new safety rule after a series of deadly North American trains wrecks involving train oil tankers.

One train wreck in 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people. That same year, a grain train collided with an oil train outside of Casselton, North Dakota, forcing 1,500 local residents to be evacuated.

With a recent boom in domestic oil production, more crude is being transported by train.

But the oil is often being transported in older tanks that have been in service for decades — and that are still using dangerously outdated braking mechanisms.

"The brakes currently used on oil trains have been described by members of the Federal Railroad Administration as 'Civil War era' technology and '19th century technology,'" DeSmog reports. "There is a large body of research and real-world evidence showing that, compared to the current braking systems, modern electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes provide significant safety benefits."

Now the Trump administration is risking lives by making sure that this old, less effective technology can stay in place.

There's little reason for the administration to do this — other than to appease big oil companies. The Hill reports that the brake requirement was a "top target" of oil and railroad industries that didn't want to invest money in the upgrades.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has had other problems in the Trump era. FRA's acting head, Heath Hall, resigned after a Politico report raised questions about Hall working as a public relations consultant while drawing a federal paycheck.

That scandal came after the FRA had lacked a permanent leader for Trump's entire first year in office. Hall was tapped as the acting head in June 2017 — even though his background was not in transportation, but rather in public relations, marketing, and losing a race for Congress as a Republican in 1998.

The Trump administration has been haphazardly slashing other safety initiatives as well, in an attempt to fulfill Trump's arbitrary promise of cutting two existing government regulations for every new one that passes.

As long as it keeps corporate interests happy, Trump will keep working hard to make government less effective — and make Americans less safe.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.