Friday, June 3rd, 2016
Rail Operator Seeking to Store Butane-Filled Cars on Tracks
The County of Morris contracts with the Morristown & Erie Railway to operate rail services along its three county-owned railroads, including the High Bridge Branch located in the Townships of Roxbury, Mount Olive, and Washington. Under protest and legal correspondence demanding otherwise, the Morristown & Erie 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. Legal action is being taken to demand removal of rail cars that have already arrived and to cease storage of additional rail cars containing butane or propane. 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.
What is understood is that the Morristown & Erie 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. This knowledge does not lessen the concerns of the county and local governments, who are adamant about preventing this practice in any way they can.
The Morristown & Erie Railway 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. As such, the County and Townships of Mount Olive, Roxbury, and Washington must be vigilant in continuing to protect our citizens to the greatest extent possible.