The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced grants totaling $20.2 million for community planning and training to improve responses to transportation incidents involving hazardous materials. The grant money has been awarded to all 50 states and five overseas territories as well as seven Native American tribes. These grants have been handed out annually since 1993, and are mostly geared toward training emergency responders for situations, such as oil rail spills, that can be hazardous to the general population.
"Well-trained first responders play a critical role in any hazardous materials incident, including those involving crude oil," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at the official announcement. "These grants are another tool in the Department's comprehensive approach to improving the transportation of crude oil and other hazardous material across the country."
Recipients have also been encouraged to allocate part of the funds to studies to accurately determine the frequency and quantity of of hazardous materials shipments through their communities. Three states were granted more than $1 million, reflecting their central role in the transportation of crude oil: California ($1.7 million), Texas ($1.2 million) and Illinois ($1.1 million). Puerto Rico received $165,000 and the other territories ranged between $62,000 and $65,000. The seven tribes were awarded between $20,000 (the Nez Perce of Idaho) and $196,000 (the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona).
As recently as last December, a train derailment near Casselton, North Dakota, resulted in the ignition of crude oil that was being transported through the town, which led to a chain of large explosions, although fortunately there were no casualties.
Later this fall, the PHMSA is expected to officially grant a further $47.6 million to states and territories for pipeline safety training. Professional safety consultants can inspect pipelines and other sites where hazardous materials are transported to ensure the population's safety.