Morris County Freeholders fighting to keep butane-filled rail cars off M&E rail line

The Morris County freeholders are taking legal action to stop rail cars containing butane and propane from being stored on the Morristown & Erie Railway’s High Bridge Branch, which runs through Mount Olive, Washington and Roxbury townships.

Morris County contracts with the M&E Railway to operate rail services along its three county-owned railroads, including the High Bridge Branch. Under protest and legal correspondence demanding otherwise, the M&E Railway has contracted with Gibson Gas to store rail cars containing butane along the High Bridge Branch in Mount Olive. Though transport of these materials is allowable along rail lines, due to the County’s ownership of the High Bridge Branch, the County is in a position to prevent such storage from taking place.

Morris County Officials are working cooperatively with the impacted municipalities to protect citizens with two main courses of action. Simultaneously, the Morris County Office of Emergency Management is working in partnership with our county, local and mutual aid emergency response agencies to prepare a comprehensive, coordinated and tiered response to ensure for the safety of our residents in the event that an issue arises.

The M&E Railway has a one-year agreement with Gibson Gas to store up to 100 liquefied butane and propane cars on the High Bridge Branch. Under this arrangement storage would continue until the individual cars are transported to Gibson Gas customers. The Railway has communicated that all federally-required safety and security requirements are in place, according to a release from the county.

The M&E, which has not yet responded back to RNJ for comment, asserts that they are acting within their rights as an operator. However, they have not followed protocols as outlined in the management agreement with the County, nor have they coordinated, as they have stated, with the local emergency responders, the release said.

According to a post on Mount Olive Twp Mayor Rob Greenbaum’s Facebook page, “M&E has not had any discussions with the Mt Olive representatives but M&E has hazmat qualified personnel who will be calling Mt. Olive police and fire. M&E has offered training regarding hazmats in the past and will offer it again for the fire, police and municipal and county personnel who want to be trained. Now that the cars are moving to Mt. Olive M&E’s trained personnel will be calling on local police and fire this week.”

“Washington Township Police, OEM, emergency service agencies and West Morris Regional School District have begun addressing this safety concern in their emergency preparedness planning and will continue to do so,” according to Washington Twp website.

By: Jay Edwards
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