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Three Trains Derail Just Days After Buffett's BNSF Beats Back Railroad Regulations

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

There's this...

Last week, under pressure from companies including Buffett’s BNSF Railway Co, which has spent more money lobbying Congress this year than any other railroad, U.S. legislators passed, and President Obama signed, a law that delays the so-called positive train control mandate for at least three years, with the possibility of an additional two-year delay.

 

That means railroad operators can put off having to buy and install equipment that safety advocates say would have prevented accidents that have claimed more than 245 lives and caused over 4,200 injuries since the National Transportation Safety Board began calling for the technology in 1969.

 

– From the Reuters article: Buffett’s BNSF Helped Lead Fight to Delay Train Safety Technology

And then there's this...

A freight train derailed near Alma in western Wisconsin, spilling thousands of gallons of ethanol. BNSF Railway said crews continued Sunday to transfer ethanol from the derailed cars and get the cars back on the tracks.

 

The BNSF train derailed at 8:45 a.m. Saturday about two miles north of Alma, a town along the Mississippi River. Some of the 25 derailed cars were empty auto racks and tanker cars.

 

BNSF said railroad crews stopped the leaks from five tanker cars and placed containment booms along the shoreline. One tanker released an estimated 18,000 gallons of ethanol, and the other four released an estimated 5 to 500 gallons each.

 

– From ABC News2nd Train Derails in Wisconsin in 2 Days, Spills Crude Oil

Last week, a friend of mine sent me an Reuter’s article titled: Buffett’s BNSF Helped Lead Fight to Delay Train Safety Technology. It immediately caught my attention, because I am of the unconventional belief that Warren Buffett’s entire public persona of a gentle, kind and caring grandfatherly-type investing guru is a complete and total act.

Granted, I think Warren Buffett is a brilliant man, I just don’t think he’s a good guy. In fact, when you look in particular at his behavior through the banker bailout period, it becomes clear that the man is only concerned about his own bottom line, and merely feigns a bleeding heart for the long-term welfare of the nation.

All you have to do is see how the man morphed into a Obamanomics cheerleader in exchange for following a bailout of his financial investments, and continues to support economic policies that have done little other than transform this nation into a total Banana Republic oligarchy in less than a decade.

But I digress. Let’s get into the heart of this post by showing how his railroad company, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, successfully lobbied to delay certain regulations.

From Reuters:

When an Amtrak passenger train derailed in Philadelphia in May, killing eight people and injuring scores more, the railroad industry’s campaign to delay a Dec. 31 deadline to install technology to prevent such disasters appeared to be finished.

Not, as it turned out, if billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, had anything to do with it. Thune chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the rail industry.

 

Last week, under pressure from companies including Buffett’s BNSF Railway Co, which has spent more money lobbying Congress this year than any other railroad, U.S. legislators passed, and President Obama signed, a law that delays the so-called positive train control mandate for at least three years, with the possibility of an additional two-year delay.

 

That means railroad operators can put off having to buy and install equipment that safety advocates say would have prevented accidents that have claimed more than 245 lives and caused over 4,200 injuries since the National Transportation Safety Board began calling for the technology in 1969.

 

Railroad advocates presented a blunt argument: Unless the mandate to install positive train control technology was delayed, the railroads would attempt to cripple the economy. Railroads that missed the deadline to install systems that automatically slow or stop a train under dangerous circumstances claimed that they would face heightened liabilities by operating outside of federal law, and that therefore they would decline to carry passengers, including commuters. They wouldn’t deliver commodities that are classified as hazardous, but are also vital to the economy – including chemicals like chlorine and ammonia needed to run city water treatment plants, refine oil and keep farms and factories running.

 

BNSF, at $3.9 million, was the biggest spender among individual rail operators as railroads and allies including unions and regional transit authorities spent almost $25 million lobbying Congress on PTC and other issues, according to Senate documents.

And now, for the first and likely last time I will ever agree with Senator Dianne Feinstein…

“It is entirely inappropriate that the railroad industry would make hostages of America’s passenger rail services and chemical shippers in order to secure their favored legislative outcome,” Feinstein said in a statement for the Congressional Record. “It is offensive that only when a railroad could face full liability for an accident that they find operation without PTC to be unacceptably dangerous.”

 

Lobbying by shippers and other interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, drove total spending to almost $113 million over the course of the year. Records show that lobby spending jumped from about $18.5 million in the first quarter to $70 million in the third quarter as the push intensified.

 

But after May’s Amtrak disaster, “when they announced that this could have been prevented if they’d had positive train control, there was a real spotlight on why we weren’t there and what we could do to get there faster,” Thune told Reuters in an interview.

 

That left it to four members of Congress – all of them big beneficiaries of rail industry campaign contributions – to work out a deal that could win bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. They then pushed to attach it to a must-pass short-term extension to the Highway Trust Fund.

 

The measure passed both chambers on simple voice votes that meant individual lawmakers didn’t have their positions recorded. Supporters said that showed near universal support for the measure. 

While I do not have the expertise to say whether or not the train derailments over the weekend had anything to do with the PTC issue, I do know two things. First, Warren Buffett’s BNSF was the biggest spender in getting these regulations delayed, and second, one of the trains that derailed over the weekend was a BNSF train.

We learn from ABC News:

A Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed Sunday, spilling less than 1,000 gallons of crude oil and prompting evacuations in Wisconsin, the second day in a row a freight train derailed in the state.

 

Thirteen cars of an eastbound CP train went off the tracks around 2 p.m. in Watertown, in the southeastern part of the state, the railroad said. One tank car was punctured and leaked oil.

 

The incident came a day after a freight train derailed near Alma in western Wisconsin, spilling thousands of gallons of ethanol. BNSF Railway said crews continued Sunday to transfer ethanol from the derailed cars and get the cars back on the tracks.

 

The BNSF train derailed at 8:45 a.m. Saturday about two miles north of Alma, a town along the Mississippi River. Some of the 25 derailed cars were empty auto racks and tanker cars.

 

BNSF said railroad crews stopped the leaks from five tanker cars and placed containment booms along the shoreline. One tanker released an estimated 18,000 gallons of ethanol, and the other four released an estimated 5 to 500 gallons each.

And then, this morning...

  • *BNSF REPORTS FREIGHT TRAIN DERAILMENT IN DANVILLE, IOWA

So 3 trains in 3 days just a week after Buffett successfully lobbies for the delay of safety fixes for his railcars...

*  *  *

For more on the real Warren Buffett, see:

No Capital Controls for Oligarchs – Warren Buffett Buys Greek Island

Warren Buffett the Slumlord – Predatory Loans, Kickbacks and Preying on the Poor at Clayton Homes

More Hypocrisy from Warren Buffett as He Structures Deal to Avoid $400 Million in Taxes

Crony Capitalist “Uncle” Warren Buffett Drives Company Profits Using Derivatives

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing