Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry


A new bill by one of the rail industry’s favorite senators looks to change how the industry is regulated to allow “market forces to improve rail safety.” In June, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who happens to chair the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, introduced the Railroad Advancement of Innovation and Leadership with Safety (RAILS) Act.

In essence, the bill seeks to shift the rail industry toward a self-regulatory — and more difficult to enforce — approach to safety known as “performance-based regulation,” an effort first reported by DeSmog after a Congressional hearing in May.

In that hearing, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) advocated for performance-based regulations for safety, saying that government should “allow the railroad industry to keep more of their profits.” That’s what you should expect when moving to a system relying on market forces to improve safety.

Speaking of market forces, it should come as no surprise that the top donor to Senator Fischer’s election campaigns is rail company Union Pacific. Or that four of her top eleven donors are rail companies, which include Berkshire Hathaway (owner of rail company BNSF), Norfolk Southern, and CSX.

That helps explain why she is pushing to allow the industry to self-regulate via performance-based regulations. Even in a pro-industry opinion piece in the publication RailwayAge, written by a former employee of rail lobbying group, the Association of American Railroads, it wasn’t possible to sell the bill without noting that it allows industry to regulate itself:

…performance-based safety standards mean rather than the [Federal Railroad Administration] prescribing particular actions, such as mileage-based brake tests and specific operations and maintenance procedures, the agency would specify a safety outcome — such as a maximum accident-type rate or component failure rate — and allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving that target.”

What could go wrong if you allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving safety? Let’s take a look at Exhibit A: Lac-Mégantic.

Lac-Mégantic: When ‘Market Forces’ Regulate Safety

Shortly after the deadly oil-by-rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, a columnist at The Guardian stated, “the explosion in Lac-Mégantic is not merely a tragedy. It is a corporate crime scene.” There is a mountain of evidence to prove how corporate cost-cutting caused the July 2013 accident in the small Quebec town.

The fire on the locomotive that started the whole deadly chain of events was the result of cutting costs for engine repair. A report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada stated that “This temporary repair had been performed using a polymeric material, which did not have the strength and durability required for this use.”  That was the first mistake due to cost-cutting shortcuts.

The company operating that oil train had also been allowed to run the trains with a single person crew. Another cost-saving measure that railroad labor unions oppose and one that the rail industry in America is lobbying hard to make standard.

And then there was the corporate policy of not using all of the braking systems in order to save time, which we wrote about on DeSmog last year:

What has been overlooked is the corporate policy of not engaging the “automatic brake” when leaving a train on the tracks. Harding [train engineer] set the independent brake and handbrakes but did not set the automatic brake because that was corporate policy.

The brakes he did apply were sufficient to hold the train. But then the locomotive caught fire that night and the fire department cut power to the locomotive, which led to the loss of pressure in the independent brake and the train “running away” down the hill towards Lac-Mégantic.

It would have taken Harding 10 seconds to engage the automatic brake. If this had been done, the train most likely would have remained in place until it was scheduled to continue the next morning. But company policy was to not engage the automatic brake even when parking a loaded train of explosive Bakken oil on a hill above a town. Why not?

Because while it only takes 10 seconds to engage the braking system, it takes between 15 minutes to an hour to disengage the system when the train is restarted the next day. And in the rail industry, time is money.

This is what happens when market forces drive safety precautions. And that is why it is accurate to describe Lac-Mégantic as a corporate crime scene.

‘Sound Science’ and ECP Braking

The new bill from Sen. Fischer include the section “Sound Science,” which requires that regulations be based on things like “appropriately validated models and formulas.” It does not mention how one goes about “appropriately” validating models and formulas.

This approach of claiming that safety regulations aren’t based on sound science or that the “science is still out”has already proven to be a very effective approach for delaying further safety measures for the rail and oil industries. It has been the main argument allowing the oil industry to continue to transportvia train a dangerous and volatile oil that could easily be stabilized and made safer to ship.

In the RailwayAge opinion piece supporting Fischer’s industry-friendly bill, it notes that the industry is particularly interested in rolling back the requirement to have electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes on oil trains, saying this regulation was “troubling to railroads and the scientific community.”

When DeSmog asked RailwayAge to provide evidence that the scientific community found the regulations requiring ECP braking “troubling,” the author of the piece — former Association of American Railroads (AAR) employee Frank Wilner — directed DeSmog to the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. According to its website this organization is “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads.”

So, scientists on the payroll of the rail industry’s main lobbying group find a proven safety technology “troubling.” What should be more troubling to anyone concerned about rail safety is a bill introduced by a senator taking large amounts of money from the rail industry, a bill which is then promoted by not only the industry’s lobbying group but also a former lobbying group employee, claiming in an industry trade magazine that industry-paid scientists are the final word on safety.

As repeatedly noted on DeSmog, there is ample evidence that ECP brakes are safer.

But perhaps the strongest argument for ECP brakes is that they are required on trains hauling nuclear waste. Why would this be required if these brakes offer no safety benefits? In 2004, the AAR gave a presentation on why trains should be allowed to move spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and clearly noted that ECP brakes were important for safety. Yet 13 years later, this group is purporting that it is an unproven technology.

And that’s not all. There’s evidence that ECP brakes would have prevented the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Performance-Based Regulation or Profit-Based Regulation?

Railroad rules have been written in blood.” This linecomes from the annual report of the Commissioner of Railroads for the state of Michigan — in 1901. It implied that safety rules were only implemented when enough blood had been spilled.

One hundred and fifteen years later, in an opinion piece on rail safety for CNN, rail expert Fred Failey essentially said the same thing, opening his piece with the statement, “The rules by which trains operate on American railroads were written in blood.”

Now, with over 100 years of history showing the rail industry’s refusal to implement safety measures until enough people have died, the industry is again pushing to regulate itself in order to avoid proven safety technologies for the sake of “keep[ing] more of their profits.” Congress and the anti-regulatory officials now in the Trump administration are working hard to allow this to happen.

The only performance that will improve when implementing performance-based regulations is the performance of railroad stock prices and the fundraising efforts of politicians like Sen. Deb Fischer.

Main image: Union Pacific locomotive Credit:


Trump to nominate Fortson to NMB

From railway age

Kyle Kirsten Hicks Fortson will be nominated by President Trump for one of two Republican seats on the National Mediation Board (NMB), according to a White House press release June 20. If formally nominated and confirmed by the Senate, she will inherit the remainder of a three-year term expiring July 1, 2019.

The NMB statute permits members to remain in office until they depart or their successor is confirmed by the Senate. Current Democrats Harry R. Hoglander and Linda Puchala are holdovers in seats that expired in July 2016.

Railway Age Washington correspondent Frank N. Wilner, who in mid-March reported Fortson as a possible nominee, expects a second Republican to be nominated before August, who he says is expected to be either Republican Gerald W. (Trey) Fauth III or Republican Vincent Frank Vernuccio, both of whom he identified as contenders in March.

Wilner says Democrat Puchala, who joined the NMB in 2009, likely will be renominated by Trump to a third term, with Hoglander, an NMB member since 2002, departing upon confirmation of one of the two new Republicans. The NMB’s lone Republican, Nicholas Geale, voluntary departed the NMB earlier this year for a Trump appointment in the Department of Labor not requiring Senate confirmation. Confirmation of both new Republican nominees will give the NMB its first Republican majority since 2009. The chairmanship of the NMB rotates among all three members annually.

Fortson, an attorney, has been labor policy director for the Senate Labor Committee since 2010, and from 2004 to 2010 was the committee’s labor counsel. Earlier in her career she was a policy analyst for the Senate Republican Policy Committee, legislative counsel to Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), and judiciary counsel Rep. Spencer Bauchus (R-Ala.). She earned an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Colorado in 1996, and a law degree from The George Washington University in 1999. Her husband, Joseph B. Fortson IV, is a congressional lobbyist—currently for consumer research firm Nielson, and previously for Apple—and a former counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The three-member NMB is an independent federal regulatory agency administering the Railway Labor Act (applying to airlines as well as railroads). The agency provides mediation services for collective bargaining disputes, administers voluntary alternative dispute resolution programs, and manages binding arbitration in settlement of contract interpretation.

Regional Meetings June 04 – June 09


 I will be at the BLET Regional meetings in San Antonio

June 04 through June 09



in my Absence please contact

Vice Local Chairman Tony Duran 626-695-1887

or President Ron Danly 714-624-7473

or S/T Brian Hess 951-204-8966


I will be available most of the time, but for immediate concerns where you need an answer right now please contact Tony. for anything else leave me a message or text and I will get back to you as soon as Im able.

San Antonio Regional Meeting




a little History as we approach our 140th anniversary …


Image result for locomotive engineers journal 1918


Volume 52  JANUARY, 1918  Number 1

A Good Report from Division 5 Los Angeles. Ca. Aug. IS. 1918.

Editor Journal: At Los Angeles, California,


the Southern Pacific boys are rather shy and our name and number are seldom seen in the Journal, but the members are doing good work just the same, and since June 1st have been too busy organizing to write.


Under a special dispensation from Grand Chief Stone, the Division started in on the 1st of June, with the assistance of M. E. Montgomery, A. G. C. E., and M. H. Dinsmore, C. E., A. S. Lockwood, J. J. Norton, William Blakeman, and others, to organize the Pacific electric motormen.


The first class initiated was 65 members; 128 taking the work during the first day.


We have initiated a total of 550 members since June 1st, and now have a total membership in Div. 5 of 800 members.


We think we have the distinction of being the largest Division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in the world, at the present time, and perhaps the distinction of initiating more men in sixty (60) days than any other Division.


We have now 95% of the Pacific electric men in the Order, and since organizing them have succeeded, through the assistance of Brother Montgomery, in getting 25 men reinstated, who were dis charged without cause.


Have also secured a raise of .02 cents per hour and have procured pay of $1.50 per day for “students breaking in, ” and a guarantee of at least $90.00 per month for all extra men,


with an agreement whereby disciplined men shall have a right of appeal to the highest officials of the company and if not satisfied, then are granted an appeal to a Board of Arbitration, appointed by the Federal Court. While we have said little in the columns of the Journal, we are doing things worth while here for which the organizing committee, with the Brothers who assisted them, are deserving of a great deal of credit.


Visitors to Div. 5 are always welcome, and any Brother finding himself in Los Angeles on Friday night is invited to make it a point to meet with us, and we will extend to him the glad hand and a welcome that only enthusiastic, active working Brothers can give.



Fraternally yours,

C. P. Johnson, Member Div. 5.

Union Meeting Tomorrow


 Our Monthly Union Meeting is tomorrow 05/15/17 1030 am. please try and make it if able


Teamsters joint council 42

981 corporate center drive

Pomona ca 91768






Town hall meeting


 We will be having a town hall meeting with BLET National President Dennis Pierce , General Chairman Bill Hannah, and the General Chairman of the BNSF Alan Holdcraft.


This will take place Wednesday June 14 2017 at the Doubletree Hotel Ontario Airport. This will be a joint meeting with Divisions 5,56,660 all in attendance as well as the BNSF locals


                    Please try and attend.





2017 BLET Scholarship Directory


  Each year, the BLET National Division compiles a list of scholarship opportunities available to the children of BLET members. Numerous financial aid opportunities are published here in the 2017 BLET Scholarship Directory.

The scholarship opportunities vary widely. The following comprehensive list provides members and their families with contact information for each scholarship program. The BLET National Division does not maintain its own scholarship program, so interested parties are advised to contact the individual scholarship providers listed below for additional information.

Those aware of additional scholarship opportunities not included in this Directory are urged to contact the BLET Public Relations Department at:

The 2017 BLET Scholarship Directory is as follows:

images (6)

• • •

James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund

The James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund is now accepting applications for scholarship awards. The deadline for receipt of completed materials is March 31, 2017. In 2016, the Fund awarded $1.2 million in scholarships and has set $1.4 million as a goal for 2017.

Applicants must be a son, daughter, or financially dependent grandchild of a BLET member in good standing in order to be eligible to apply. Please see the link below for full eligibility requirements and to download the application along with other supporting materials.

Offered for the first time in 2017, the Fund has initiated a Training and Vocational Programs scholarship. Similar to the Academic Scholarship, applicants must be the son, daughter or financial dependent of a Teamster member (including BLET, BMWED and GCC members). The training and vocational programs must be related to work in a Teamster-represented industry, class or craft.

Scholarship applicants compete in one of the five geographic regions. One category of awards totals $10,000 each. These four-year scholarships are disbursed at the rate of $2,500 per year and are renewable annually. Other awards are one-time $1,000 grants. These scholarships are disbursed to the college or university at the beginning of the recipient’s freshman year.

Eligibility requirements and application procedures are the same for all awards. Recipients are selected by an impartial committee of university admissions and financial aid directors based on academic achievement, SAT/ACT scores, character, potential and financial need. The James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund considers all applicants without regard to race, religion, gender, disability, or any other legally protected status.

A full list of specific eligibility requirements and scholarship applications can be found on the Hoffa Scholarship website: The deadline is usually March 31 each year.

If you need additional assistance, please contact:
James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund
25 Louisiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 624-8735

• • •

BLET Auxiliary Scholarship Program

The BLET Auxiliary Scholarship Program provides $1,000 scholarships to qualifying students who wish to pursue higher education. In addition, the Auxiliary is now offering two $2,500 scholarships annually in collaboration with Locomotive Engineers and Conductors Mutual Protective Association (LECMPA). The two $2,500 scholarships are fully funded by LECMPA.

To apply for an Auxiliary Scholarship award, the applicant must be a son, daughter, stepson, or stepdaughter of a BLET Auxiliary member and a Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineer and Trainmen member (living or deceased), with each being a member at least one year. To qualify for the LECMPA-funded scholarships, the BLET member in the family must also be a member of LECMPA for no less than one year. Children of an unmarried BLET member who has been an Associate Member of the BLET Auxiliary for at least one year are also eligible.

In addition, applicants must be accepted for admission by an accredited university, college, trade school, or institute of higher learning. Recipients are chosen on the basis of academic record, leadership, character, and personal achievement.

Important: For high school seniors entering an institute of higher learning for the first time, a copy of ACT or SAT scores and a current copy of cumulative grade point average (GPA) must accompany the application. For graduate students or students returning to an institute of higher learning, a copy of last term’s (or most current) GPA must accompany the application. A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better is required for eligibility. Applications submitted without these documents will not be considered.

The LECMPA-funded scholarships will be awarded to the two applicants who score the highest amongst those who qualify (by having one parent who is an Auxiliary member for at least one year, and one parent who is a BLET member and LECMPA member for at least one year). If an applicant meets the eligibility requirements for the LECMPA-funded scholarships but is not selected for one of the two $2,500 scholarships, he/she will still be eligible for a $1,000 scholarship.

Completed applications must be received by BLET Auxiliary Secretary Helen Brand ( no later than April 1, 2017. Applications received after that date will not be considered.

Applications, instructions for scholarships, and mailing address for submission may be found on the Auxiliary website at

• • •

BLET UP-Southern Region GCA

The BLET’s Union Pacific-Southern Region General Committee of Adjustment (UP-SR GCA) offers annual scholarships ranging from $750 to $2,000. Applicants must be the son, daughter, financial dependent or ward of a UP-SR GCA member in good standing per the BLET Bylaws starting with the 2017-2018 school year. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2017. The rules and application can be found at or by contacting UP-SR GCA Secretary-Treasurer Scott Piekarski at

• • •

California State Legislative Board

The BLET’s CSLB will award a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating high school senior attending a college/ trade/ vocational school in 2017. The applicant’s parent or guardian must be a member in good standing in a BLET division represented by CSLB.

Rules, applications and deadline information are available on the Board’s website, The deadline is May 1, 2017.

All applications should be mailed to the CSLB home office address: California State Legislative Board, BLET/IBT, 610 Auburn Ravine Rd., Suite C, Auburn, CA 95603.

• • •

Illinois State Legislative Board

The BLET’s Illinois State Legislative Board is currently accepting applications for its Don Little Memorial Scholarship Fund, which was established in 2013.

One $1,000 and two $500 scholarships will be awarded to applicants whose parent or guardian is a BLET member in good standing with a BLET Local Division represented by the Illinois State Legislative Board. Applicants must be 26 years of age or younger.

Brother Don Little was a locomotive engineer with Metra commuter rail in Chicago and a proud member of BLET Division 294 (Bensenville, Ill.) for 35 years. Brother Little served for more than 10 years on the Executive Committee of the Illinois State Legislative Board and always had a dream of establishing a scholarship program for the family members of fellow Brothers and Sisters who belonged to divisions chartered in Illinois. Unfortunately, Brother Little passed away before his dream was realized.

In 2013, Paul Piekarski (Chairman of the Illinois State Legislative Board), Timothy Dunn (former Secretary-Treasurer of the Board), and several others helped make Brother Little’s dream a reality.

Scholarship applications and all accompanying documents must be received by May 1, 2017. Specific eligibility requirements, detailed instructions and application forms are available for download from the BLET National Division website (PDF).

For questions or assistance in completing the application, contact Joyce A. Piekarski, Administrative Secretary, at (630) 963-6099 or

• • •

Wyoming State Legislative Board

The BLET’s Wyoming State Legislative Board (WYSLB) is again offering a scholarship program for the upcoming school year. First offered for the 2014 academic year, the scholarship deadline for 2017 is June 1, 2017.

Wyoming State Legislative Board Chairman Cory Runion said the Board will award either two $1,000 scholarships, or, in the event of a single applicant, one $1,000 scholarship each year to an immediate family member of a BLET member in good standing and holding membership in a Division chartered within the state of Wyoming. The scholarships will be awarded based on the application, along with the requested documentation, by the WYSLB scholarship committee.

Scholarship applications and all accompanying documents must be received by June 1 of each year. Specific eligibility requirements, detailed instructions and application forms (PDF) are available for download from the BLET National Division website (see below), or can be requested from your Division Legislative Representative. Currently, the BLET has nine Divisions chartered in Wyoming — Division 31 (Bill); Division 207 (Casper); Divisions 44, 103 and 115 (Cheyenne); Division 94 (Gillette); Division 869 (Greybull); Division 142 (Rawlins); and Division 624 (Sheridan).

For questions of assistance in completing the application please contact your Division Legislative Representative.

Information and application form available here (PDF).

• • •

BLET Division 269

BLET Division 269 (Jamaica, Long Island, N.Y.) offers two $500 scholarships to the children of BLET members who are already enrolled in college. Participation is limited to members of Division 269 only.

Winners are picked at random at the Division’s Christmas party. For details, watch your Division 269’s mobile app or contact Division President John A. Kavanaugh Jr. at (631) 813-2234.

• • •

BLET Division 622

BLET Division 622 (Alliance, Neb.) will award two $500 scholarships in 2017. Only the children of Division 622 members are eligible to apply. Scholarship winners will be chosen at random during a Division meeting in August. Applications must be received by July 31, 2017. For more specifics, please visit the Division 622 website ( and click on “Scholarship.”

• • •

BR&CF Scholarship Program

The Brotherhood’s Relief and Compensation Fund (BR&CF) is pleased to provide opportunities for the sons and daughters of BR&CF members to participate in the Luther G. Smith Scholarship Program.

Children, including adopted and step-children, of BR&CF members who are in “Good and Regular Standing,” are eligible. Applicants must be 27 years of age or younger. Applicants may be current high school students who have applied for admission as full-time students in accredited post-secondary schools or may be attending or enrolled as full-time students in accredited post-secondary schools.

International President J. M. Robb advises that 20 scholarships of $1,000 each are awarded every year.

The BR&CF’s 2017 scholarship program commenced on October 1, 2016, with applications due on March 1, 2017.

BR&CF members with questions may contact Linda Garber at (800) 233-7080. Members may obtain an application form by going to and clicking on the Scholarship Application Request link under Electronic Forms, calling our toll free number noted above, or writing to 2150 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg, PA 17110.

• • •

Union Plus Scholarships

Union Plus awarded approximately $150,000 in scholarships to 104 students in the 2016 Union Plus Scholarship Program. Individual awards ranged from $500 to $4,000. The deadline is January 31 each year.

Rising education costs are making it difficult for many union families to afford the cost of tuition. That’s one reason Union Plus, which provides important consumer benefits to union members and retirees, offers a unique scholarship program. It has distributed more than $4 million in scholarships to union members and their children over the past 23 years. Recipients are selected based on academic ability, social awareness, financial need and appreciation of labor.

The students selected for university, college, trade or technical school scholarships represent a wide sampling of backgrounds, union affiliations, goals and accomplishments. The selection process is very competitive since Union Plus receives over 5,000 applications each year. The Union Plus Scholarship Program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation, supported in part by contributions from the provider of the Union Plus Credit Card. You do not need to be a Union Plus Credit Card holder to apply for this scholarship.

Visit the Union Plus website to learn more: