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Re: Options for elected officials to mitigate the harmful effects of Norfolk Southern Railway’s Expansion Project
 To: The following Federal, State and Local elected officials and appropriate agencies: 

Governor Tom Wolf
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman
Senator Robert Casey
United States Senate
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC20510
Senator Pat Toomey
United States Senate
248 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC20510
Congressman Mike Doyle
Congressman Conor Lamb
1224 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
State Senator Wayne Fontana
State Senator Jay Costa
State Senator Jim Brewster
State Representative Adam Ravenstahl
State Representative Jake Wheatley
State Representative Ed Gainey
State Representative Summer Lee
State Representative Sara Innamorato
State Representative Dan Frankel
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald
County Council Representative Liv Bennet
County Council Representative Sam DeMarco
County Council Representative Bethany Hallam
Mayor Bill Peduto
Chief of Staff Dan Gillman
City Councilman Bobby Wilson
City Councilman Daniel Lavelle
City Councilman Corey O’Connor
City Councilman Bruce Kraus
City Councilwoman Erika Strassburger
City Councilwoman Deb Gross
City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith
City Councilman Anthony Coghill
City Councilman Ricky Burgess
Director, DOMI, Karina Ricks
Jeff Skalican, Deputy Director, DOMI
Local Government and Community Relations Coordinator Hersh Merenstein
Rep. Doyle Legislative Assistant Dylan Leazes
Rep. Lamb District Director Donald Ryan
PennDOT Secretary of Transportation Yassmin Gramian
PA Department of Transportation
Keystone Building
400 North St., Fifth Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120
PennDOT Pittsburgh-Area District Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni
Chief Development Officer, Port Authority of Allegheny County David Huffaker
County Director of Community Relations & Special Projects Darla Cravotta
URA Chairman Sam Williamson
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Executive Director Will Pickering
1200 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Dear Elected Officials:
The 20 undersigned organizations believe that there is a need to address rail proliferation where it conflicts with urban health, sustainability, and personal well-being.
As you know, the State Transportation Commission approved $20 million in taxpayer funding for Norfolk Southern to increase its rail traffic through a twenty-mile segment of Pittsburgh’s most densely populated neighborhoods. 
Along the proposed modified route, there are 176,000 residents living within the black carbon diesel high risk fallout and derailment blast zones— 74% of whom live in Environmental Justice Areas.  These areas are to receive extra consideration in policy decisions to ensure that they do not disproportionately shoulder the burden of environmental hazards.  Those primarily black and brown residents are already breathing some of the worst air in the country.  University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health, Center for Environments and Communities analysts have conservatively determined that the increased train traffic is the equivalent of over 5,500 diesel busses passing those residents’ doorstep every day.   Carnegie Mellon University analysts have determined that every ten trains results in six pollution related deaths/year.  They have further determined that for every hour of train idling, there will be one pollution related death per year. We have evidence that Norfolk Southern has idled trains for four days and four nights in Allegheny Commons. Instances of idling of lower priority rail traffic will only increase after rail traffic increases. 
These facts are particularly concerning given the findings of a recent Harvard School of Public Health study, which appears to be the best available evidence regarding an association between air pollution and mortality from COVID-19.
The very latest study, published in Environment International, found that fine particles (emitted by locomotives) may also alter the size of a child’s developing brain, which may ultimately increase the risk for cognitive and emotional problems later in adolescence.

The quality of our air, water and our health are impacted by the Group 1 carcinogenic black carbon diesel 2.5 pm particulates emitted by Norfolk Southern’s locomotives.

In addition, the integrity of Norfolk Southern’s rail and bridge infrastructure through the city and Allegheny County is crucial to our safety and well-being. 

 Our elected representatives have asked for more information about what other cities and states have accomplished and what options might be considered in Pennsylvania and in Pittsburgh. 
First, California, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon all have laws expressly permitted by the Federal Oil Pollution Control Act of 1990 (OPA) that:
  • Impose strict liability—in the event of a derailment involving an oil spill or explosion, for all property damage, health costs, lives lost, require the restoration of natural resources, and permit punitive damages. 
  • OPA also allows states to impose fees on oil landed or transferred into the state once it comes off a rail car. (This was never even challenged by the railroads in California.)
  • In terms of oil spill response planning, it covers more than just the plan, it allows requiring training equipment, communication systems, and qualified officials to coordinate with the first responders. It also requires cleanup.
States are also allowed to ensure that a railroad is financially responsible either through insurance or the posting of bonds. Federal laws relating to oil spills are just the floor and the state can require more.
Moreover, states can regulate where the government has not done so.

It is beyond question that with respect to non-rail offloading facilities and refineries, municipalities maintain police powers, land-use authority, public health and emergency regulation powers.

Finally, both Chicago and Atlanta have worked out voluntary global settlements with Norfolk Southern and the options listed below are based on those models.  

In light of the foregoing, the undersigned individuals and organizations write to ask that our city, county, state and federal representatives consider doing the following: 

  • request that additional rail safety inspection oversight be performed by both the Pennsylvania Utility Commission and the Federal Rail Administration for the reasons and examples previously cited here.  [RP3 provided safety alerts in September and October 2020 entitled, respectively, “Deadly Crossings” and “How Norfolk Southern’s Greed and Regulatory Failure Puts the Public at Risk”.  Between October 20, 2020 and December 2, 2020, Norfolk Southern has had eight significant derailments within its system, two of which resulted from collapsed corroded bridges -- in Clymer, Pennsylvania Clymer, Pennsylvania  and Roanoke, Virginia].  They are:
    • October 20:  Midville, Georgia
    • October 23:  Huntsberg, Indiana
    • October 30:  Roanoke, Virginia
    • November 15:  Atlanta, Georgia
    • November 24:  Cincinnati, Ohio
    • November 25:  Clymer, Pennsylvania
    • December 1:  West of Cleveland, Ohio
    • December 2:  North of Hattiesburg, Mississippi
According to the Federal Rail Administration, between 2015 and through September 2020, Norfolk Southern has reported a total of 834 accidents within Pennsylvania.
  • request copies of all detailed rail bridge inspection reports (subject to a confidentiality agreement) within the County over the past 2 years, as well as ongoing inspection reports;
  • request Norfolk Southern post a bond in the event of a derailment where damages exceed the limits of its current insurance policy (something RP3 has been suggesting for over two years);
  • request that Norfolk Southern sign an agreement to complete Positive Train Control (with a backup system when the main control is off line for maintenance) throughout the county simultaneous with the completion of the PVCP- with financial penalties for non-compliance (something RP3 has been suggesting for over two years);
  • request enhanced oil spill protections, —including the creation of emergency response plans as outlined above;
  • request a quarterly report of idling duration and location subject to a confidentiality agreement;
  • request that our state agencies perform a Health Impact Assessment of the PVCP as previously requested by 95 physicians and medical professionals after reviewing the rail related scientific literature;
  • communicate an offer to help Norfolk Southern obtain diesel emissions reduction funding sources which include, on the federal level, the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Fund and the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act and our state portion of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund. 


We are proposing that Norfolk Southern use these funds to equip its older locomotives with available particulate matter scrubbers, build cleaner switching engines and to manufacture much cleaner Tier 4 locomotives.
Since the switch yard engines and Tier 4 locomotives and scrubbers can be manufactured in Norfolk Southern’s Altoona, PA facility (which experienced significant layoffs in both 2019- one of its most profitable years, and 2020), our solution is a proverbial “win/win” since it creates manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania and results in cleaner air for the rest of us. It is also a key to getting Norfolk Southern to agree to other types of mitigation as outlined above for residents, parks and neighborhoods adversely impacted by its PVCP.

More in-depth consideration of options outlined above are especially important since highly explosive liquid natural gas (LNG) under pressure will soon be carried on our rail lines. That fact—combined with rail carrier refusal to utilize more effective electronically-controlled pneumatic brakes and to accept limits on rail wear -- make educating our representatives in advance necessary and prudent.  We want our representatives to take action to protects lives and property.
Finally, pursuant to the Pennsylvania History Code, PennDOT is overseeing Consulting Party meetings related to the Merchant Street Bridge.  These meetings are being managed by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PASHPO).  In their April 30, 2020 report, PASHPO required Norfolk Southern to provide noise and emissions data to determine the impact of the Merchant Street Bridge project on historic Allegheny Commons, the appropriate mitigation, and the magnitude of the Area of Potential Effect.  On October 20th, PASHPO reversed their decision and without receiving any of the required data determined that there was no direct or indirect impact on Allegheny Commons and thus no mitigation was required.  However, the JMT Consultant’s Report (hired by PennDOT) entitled "Norfolk Southern Vertical Clearance Project Clearance Improvement Alternatives Evaluation" includes the Merchant Street Bridge. The “Effects Analysis Issues Score” grid for that bridge- under the design currently under consideration, shows that the Merchant St Bridge replacement resulted in a 3 red (or a high) for its direct impact in twelve categories. It also received scores of 2 yellow (medium) direct impact on the Historic District, Air Quality, Noise Pollution and Socioeconomic Environmental categories.   It is incumbent on our elected representatives to hold a hearing to investigate the Section 106 process that is occurring here, and which is paid for with taxpayer dollars.  For additional information, see our recent email.
Ultimately, the solution to volatile oil/gas trains is switching our infrastructure to clean energy.

We deserve power without pollution and energy without injustice.

We appreciate your efforts to keep us all safe and healthy. 


Very Truly Yours,
Glenn Olcerst
Barbara Talerico
Co-founders Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
1200 Resaca Place
Pittsburgh PA  15212
Matthew Mehalik, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Breathe Project
Energy Innovation Center
1435 Bedford Ave. Suite 140
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Rachel Filippini
Executive Director
Group Against Smog and Pollution
1133 S. Braddock Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15218
412-924-0604 ext. 201
James Fabisiak, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Director, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities
University of Pittsburgh
Graduate School of Public Health, PUBHL-4132
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
130 DeSoto Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone:  412-624-7335
Fax: 412-624-9361
Thomas Schuster
Pennsylvania Chapter
Sierra Club
225 Market St STE 501
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Jacquelyn Bonomo
President and CEO, PennFuture 
200 First Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Ned Ketyer, M.D.
102 Meadowvue Ct. 
Venetia, PA 15367 
Physicians for Social Responsibility - Pennsylvania
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102 
Angelo Taranto
Allegheny County Clean Air Now
c/o Community Presyterian Church of Ben Avon
7501 Church Avenue
PIttsburgh, PA 15202
Brook Lenker
Executive Director
FracTracker Alliance
112 E Sherman St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
Christine Graziano
Plant Five for Life
5918 Elwood St.
Pittsburgh PA 15232
Katie Modic
223 Carnegie Place
Pittsburgh PA 15208
Barb Pace
Allegheny County Clean Air Now
c/o Community Presyterian Church of Ben Avon
7501 Church Avenue
PIttsburgh, PA 15202
Howard M Rieger
East End Neighbors Against Air Pollution
6315 Forbes Ave, #902
Pittsburgh PA 15217
Ana Hoffman
4720 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Marcia Lehman
Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community (BCMAC)
PO Box 31
Ambridge PA 15003
Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis
Women for a Healthy Environment
5877 Commerce Street, Suite 114
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Gillian Graber
Executive Director
Protect PT
3344 Route 130, Suite D
Harrison City, Pa 15636
Gail Murray, Communications Director
Communities First Sewickley Valley
1435 Bedford Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15219
Deborah Gentile, MD
Community Partners in Asthma Care
127 Lampliter Lane
McMurray PA 15317
Steve Hvozdovich
Pennsylvania Campaigns Director
Clean Water Action
100 5th Ave, Ste 1108
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-765-3053 x 410
Karen Grzywinski
Allegheny County Clean Air Now
c/o Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon
7501 Church Avenue
Ben Avon, PA 15202


Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
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