Minot Spill Sparks Heightened Concern Over Olympic Safety

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- One day after the Coalition for a Safe Olympics raised public concerns about unrestricted rail shipments of hazardous materials through Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics, a deadly train crash in North Dakota heightened tensions about the potential for tragedy during the Games, the Coalition stated in a press release.

One person was killed and more than a dozen injured on Friday, January 18, 2002, when a train carrying anhydrous ammonia crashed in Minot, N.D. The death of a bystander whose home was located near the tracks underscores the seriousness of the Coalition's concerns and the importance of addressing the threat posed by tons of hazardous chemicals and munitions being hauled close to Olympic venues.

The Coalition demands that Union Pacific Railroad, the nation's number one hazardous materials hauler, reroute its trains around Salt Lake City during the Olympics in February. Union Pacific Railroad operates trains through Salt Lake City, not far from The Gateway and Olympic Legacy Plaza, where thousands of people from around the world will gather throughout the games.

"With the added threat of terrorism at the Olympics, the rail system poses a very serious risk to public safety, which must be addressed," said Utah Senator Ed Mayne.

The Coalition, comprised of Utah State elected officials, the Teamsters, other unions, environmental and railroad safety groups said Union Pacific has thus far refused to halt, reroute or even curtail its hazardous materials shipments during the Olympics.

Train derailments involving hazardous materials happen about every two weeks in this nation, according to a Railwatch study.

Union Pacific's refusal to reroute hazardous shipments stands in stark contrast to all other hazardous material transporters in the region, all of whom have agreed to limit or restrict their shipment of hazardous cargo. Even the Salt Lake City International Airport will halt all traffic during opening and closing galas of the Olympics. Union Pacific trains run within blocks of major Olympic events.

"Union Pacific's arrogant refusal to reroute hazardous materials during the Olympics is unnerving to Utah residents -- and the world community that will gather in Salt Lake City," said Ralph Taurone, Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 222 in Salt Lake City which represents more than 3,000 area workers. "With all the precautions to address safety in the skies, on the ground, in our food and in our mail during the Olympic games, why is the nation's largest hazmat carrier running tons of toxic and explosive materials right through Salt Lake City?"

Since the September 11th attack on our nation, security concerns at the Olympics have drawn international attention. With more than 70,000 visitors and 3,700 athletes and officials from 80 nations scheduled to visit our community, the Coalition called on Union Pacific to address the threat posed on its rail system whether by accident or terrorist intent.

Coalition members include: Ralph Taurone, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 222; Mike Dmitrich, Minority Leader, Utah State Senate; Ed Mayne, Utah State Senator, President Utah State, AFL-CIO; Ron Allen, Utah State Senator, Firefighter; Gene Davis, Utah State Senator; Paula F. Julander, Utah State Senator; Ralph Becker, Minority Leader, Utah State Representatives; Fred Fife III, Utah State Representative; David Litvack, Utah State Representative; Trisha Beck, Utah State Representative; Ty McCartney, Utah State Representative; Brad King, Utah State Representative; Cindy Beshear, Utah State Representative; Patty Rich, President, A.F.S.C.M.E. Local 1004; G.D. Kirkland, C.E.O. O.P.E.I.U. 11; Steve Richins, Business Manager, Utah Building & Construction Trades; Wayne Holland Jr., Staff Representative, United Steelworkers of America; Nancy M. Jones, President, A.F.G.E. Local 2199; Brett Woolley, Business Manager, Painters Local 77; Sam L. Johnson, Business Manager, Sheetmetal Workers Local 312; James Phelps, Business Agent, I.A.T.S.E. Local 99; Troy Tingey, President, A.F.G.E. Local 1592 and Lee B. Linford, President, C.W.A. Local 7705.