Few corporations prove themselves to be immune to fuzzy (or even downright silly) logic, especially when such (il)logic results in financial gain. However, the largest freight railroad company in the nation, Union Pacific, is yet again establishing itself as a leader in backwards thinking. Chlorine companies – The Chlorine Institute and the American Chemistry Council – are filing suit against the railroad giant to block a provision established by U.P which makes the suppliers themselves liable for damages incurred during transportation, even those for which the railroad is at fault. This comes on top of Union Pacific’s raising their pricing for transporting these materials. The chlorine companies say that railroads like U.P simply have too much bargaining power, as no other viable option to transport potentially hazardous materials currently exists.
Rail safety activist Fred Millar rightly notes that the railroads are behaving outlandishly – both in their irrational demands for more money and no liability, but also for transporting these hazardous materials through populated areas. There should be a requirement, he says, to transport these materials through alternative routes which do not pass through populated areas. As we are unfortunately being constantly reminded, derailments do occur, and it is downright dangerous – even immoral – to be transporting materials such as chlorine and ammonia without taking into consideration the fact that cars derail.
The most telling thing, of course, is that in all of U.P’s dealings on this matter, only one factor has successfully drawn their attention: money. They are expecting to get by without taking a long, hard look at public safety. For that, they can expect the pressure on them to continue. They won’t listen to the pressure, of course, until their pockets are being threatened.