Jan 152015
 

Since 9/11, our government has asked us to individually plan and prepare for surviving emergencies such as hurricanes, tornados, power outages or terror attacks. Even so, surveys show less than half of our adult population has made any such preparations. Emergency preparedness plans include storing enough water, food and fuel to last several days or weeks. Preparations may also include plans to shelter in place, evacuate unsafe buildings, access nearby shelters, and administer first aid. Some worry we are totally unprepared for a disaster on a national scale, particularly a worldwide catastrophe which could preclude us from getting help from other countries. The worst such disaster could be a nuclear, impact or volcanic winter resulting from a nuclear missile exchange, an asteroid or comet impact, or a super volcano eruption. The aftermath of any of these events would likely be much the same –the loss of several growing seasons due to years of extremely cold weather. Some wish to begin accumulating enough grain for such an emergency and storing it near population centers. They claim creating and maintaining a strategic grain reserve, as we have done with petroleum, is the solution to our catastrophic protection problem. Opponents claim such an effort is impractical because it is too expensive to purchase, store and secure food –which also needs to be regularly rotated. They claim individual households are more effective that the state for such efforts. However, others believe preparations on this scale could only be accomplished by government effort. They also say a strategic grain reserve would act as a hedge against volatile food and animal feed prices.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current catastrophic preparedness policy

I support identifying a legislator, and/or establishing a DR long-term campaign, to create and maintain a strategic grain reserve with the capacity to feed the majority of Americans for several years

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Recently, railway tank cars have been involved in several fiery accidents which have been blamed on excessive speed, driver error, poor track conditions, and substandard railway tankers. Most of the tank cars on our rails today are older, general-purpose tankers known as DOT-111s. For 25 years, the National Transportation Safety Board has warned these cars are inadequate for transporting volatile liquids such as ethanol and Bakken crude oil, saying its steel shell is too thin to withstand puncturing during derailments, and its valves are prone to breaking off during rollovers. Although no injuries were caused by a series of recent fiery oil train accidents in North Dakota, Alabama and Virginia, a runaway train carrying Bakken crude in DOT-111 cars derailed in Quebec, igniting an inferno that destroyed a city’s downtown and killed 47 residents. Statistics show that oil transportation has increased by 4,200% in the 7 years since crude oil reserves were discovered in North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields. In 2013, at least 415,000 carloads of crude oil were shipped by rail, compared to 9,500 in 2008. Currently, there are about 92,000 tanker cars in use but only about 14,000, or 15%, of these are built to the latest safety standards. The Obama administration has proposed new rules which would phase out the use of DOT-111 tankers if they are not retrofitted with better safety features by 2018. These rules would also limit train speeds to 40-mph and would require trains carrying 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil to give advance notice to states along its route. The estimated cost to make a tanker car about 20% more effective against punctures will be about $30,000. The complete cost to the rail industry of retrofitting the entire DOT-111 fleet is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion. Safety advocates say we should replace these dangerous tankers immediately, not several years from now. They warn the stakes are high enough for lobbyists to try to water-down or delay these proposed rule changes until a new administration assumes office. The rail industry complains that, in addition to the expense, retrofitting older tankers will reduce their capacity by 800 gallons, forcing shippers to deploy more cars. They also claim more time is needed to retrofit or replace the entire DOT-111 fleet.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current railroad tank car policy

Senate Legislation:

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to retrofit or replace all DOT-111 railway tank cars before 2017, limit train speeds to 40-mph, and require trains carrying 1 million gallons of ethanol or Bakken crude oil to give advance notice to states along its route.

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

If trends persist, the world’s oceans are likely to rise at least one foot by 2050, making flooding a big problem for many coastal cities. It is estimated that the average annual losses from flooding in the world’s biggest coastal cities could increase from today’s $6 billion to $1 trillion by 2050. However, if these cities prepare for sea level rise by installing pumps and constructing levees and movable barriers, damages are estimated to increase only $63 billion by that time. The American cities most at risk from sea level rise are New York, Miami and New Orleans. Even after installing flood defenses, it is estimated these cities will sustain about $2 billion in annual flood damages by 2050. Flood predictions for Boston and Tampa Bay are nearly as dire. Advocates say many shorelines are threatened by forces such as sea level rise, more intense hurricanes, coastal subsidence from building massive structures on sedimentary soils, and the destruction of wetland areas. Some say that, rather than build seawalls and other engineered coastal defenses, natural defenses offer the best protection from rising sea levels. They claim it might be more efficient to restore tidal marshes, coastal wetlands, barrier islands and other natural ecosystems that have traditionally served as buffer zones for coastal-dwelling communities. They say “tidal marsh plants are amazing ecosystem engineers that can raise themselves upward if they remain healthy, and especially if there is sediment in the water.” Some scientists claim these natural buffers could keep pace with sea level rise and provide continuing protection.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current sea level rise protection policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to assess the needs of cities most likely to be affected by sea level rise; recommend the best strategies, both engineered and natural, to counteract the effects of coastal flooding in these cities and other shorelines; and to provide matching funds for states to begin deploying these strategies

 Posted by at 12:00 am