Railroads have testified before Congress and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) regarding the liability they incur when transporting toxic-by-inhalation (TIH) materials such as anhydrous ammonia and chlorine.
In 2008, after a rail accident with fatalities involving chlorine in Graniteville, S.C., the railroads called on Congress and the Surface Transportation Board STB to limit their liability for transporting TIH materials, provide them with indemnification in the event of a release, or relieve them of the common carrier obligation to accept TIH materials. At the same time, rate increases for TIH materials skyrocketed as a way to have TIH shippers find alternative transportation modes. Recently, the STB denied the railroads request for a policy statement on liability and indemnification.
However, this has not stopped the railroads. In May, the largest shortline holding company, RailAmerica, announced a tariff for TIH shipments that would impose special train service and stipulates, among other requirements, only three loaded TIH cars will be transported in the special train service and a minimum fee of $15,000 would apply.
TFI, the American Chemistry Council and the Chlorine Institute filed an unreasonable practice case at the STB in April.
Also in April, the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) filed a petition at the STB asking the STB to declare that UP may require, as a condition of providing common carrier transportation, that a TIH shipper indemnify and hold UP liabilities arising out of the performance of the transportation services, except those caused strictly by the UP.
TFI responded to the UP petition by statement submitted to the STB on May 17. In the reply, the Institute encouraged the STB to deny UP’s petition in view of the STB’s recent decision in the common carrier proceeding which denied the railroads a policy statement on indemnification.