What: All Issues : Environment : Air Pollution : H.R. 1401(Rail and Public Transportation Security Act), Cohen of Tennessee amendment to establish a program to minimize rail transport of hazardous materials that are toxic when inhaled/On agreeing to the amendment
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H.R. 1401(Rail and Public Transportation Security Act), Cohen of Tennessee amendment to establish a program to minimize rail transport of hazardous materials that are toxic when inhaled/On agreeing to the amendment
house Roll Call 195     Mar 27, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote was on an amendment by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) to a $6 billion bill to improve transit security. Cohen's amendment sought to require the federal government to coordinate with state and local governments to minimize the transport of hazardous materials that are toxic when inhaled.

Every year, over 100,000 carloads of toxic chemicals and 1.6 million carloads of hazardous materials such as explosives and radioactive items are transported across the country by rail, Cohen said in a floor speech. Several derailments in 2006 and 2007 pointed to the dangers to local communities from such transport, Cohen added. "While rail is clearly the safest means of transport for such materials, we must work to ensure this transit is as secure, efficient and is as considerate towards the safety of our communities as possible," Cohen said.

Cohen said his amendment would support the state and local communities that have enacted bans on the transportation of certain toxic substances through their areas, prompting litigation from the rail industry. The language of his proposal would require the Transportation Department to minimize the time and frequency such materials pass through communities.

Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.) said Cohen's amendment was a "do-good amendment that either does nothing or does harm." Lungren said the substance of the amendment was already covered in the bill and Cohen's addition would only tie the Transportation Department's hands by requiring the secretary to minimize the transport of such materials on rail only, "which will maximize the travel on our highways." Lungren said Cohen's amendment would undermine the intent of the bill, which is to have the Transportation Department minimize threats across different modes of transport.

By a vote of 237-188, the House passed Cohen's amendment. Eleven Republicans joined all but one Democrat in voting for it. Thus, legislation aiming to improve transit security went forward with an amendment that would require the Transportation Department to minimize the rail transport of hazardous materials that are dangerous when inhaled.

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