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Monday, August 31, 2015

TRAINS, OIL, PEOPLE

We interrupt our Bernie news to bring you this important message from La Crosse's grassroots group, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS). These folks have been very active in confronting railroads and government policy makers about increasing and increasingly dangerous shipments of Bakken crude oil and other hazardous materials though La Crosse and many other communities. 

The current "oil bomb trains" situation can, in a way, be traced back to the crony and crooked politics of the 19th century when the US government used military force to remove indigenous people from their land and then granted railroads a perpetual sweet deal that we are all paying for to this very day. (And here's a very interesting book about that sorry history: Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America.)

But I digress.

CARS announces three important actions this week. If you can participate in one or more, please do!

1.  On Wednesday, September 2, CARS and its sister organization CARS-Minneapolis will sponsor a round table discussion on rail safety featuring Senators Al Franken - MN and Tammy Baldwin - WI. This meeting will also include mayors and first responders from both Minnesota and Wisconsin. The meeting is to be held in the Twin Cities on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 1 p.m. As you know both senators are in support of legislation to strengthen and enhance the DOT's rules regarding oil trains and this meeting will go a long way to lay the framework of this new legislation. [More exact location details were not given. If you want to attend, please email couleeprogressive and we'll get you the info if possible.]

2.  [EDITED WITH UPDATED INFO] CARS has been asked by Keith Butler, La Crosse County Emergency Services Manager, to assist in an important crude oil related safety project of the County's Emergency Management Office. The office is nearing completion of a 6-month project to develop evacuation route planning and guidance for communities along the BNSF lines in La Crosse County – relative to a crude oil incident, but applicable for any railroad emergency that may require evacuation

The Onalaska presentation to the public and local officials to plan for a crude oil incident or other railway emergency has been changed from Tuesday, September 2 to Thursday, September 10 and the new location will be the Omni Center from 7 – 9 pm

The public presentations will offer guidance and recommendations. Public feedback and awareness of local situations is actively sought and considered extremely helpful from those who actually live and work in these neighborhoods. Future hearings for the Grand Crossing, double track expansion area and Mormon Coulee neighborhoods will be coming later this fall.

3.  On Thursday, September 3rd at 11:30 AM The La Crosse County court plans to take up all outstanding motions regarding CARS' and Midwest Environmental Advocates' case against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CARS contends the DNR has not followed legal procedures in its permitting process). The will be a hearing on Thursday to address some issues brought up as part of CARS' legal challenge. This hearing is open to the public and it would be very helpful to have a large turnout. The hearing will be held at the County Law Enforcement Center, 333 Vine St., 3rd floor in Judge Horne's Chambers. Please Note: This is not the hearing on the merits of the DNR's permit process. That hearing will be on September 28. 

For more information about this issue and/or CARS, please visit their website and subscribe to the DOT-111 Reader.

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