Mayo Clinic Says Railroad Safety Plan Fails to Protect Rochester

    Specific mitigation proposed to address increased hazardous material
    shipments and DM&E's chronic safety problems

    ROCHESTER, Minn., March 5 /CNW/ -- Mayo Clinic asked federal regulators
today to require specific improvements to the Safety Integration Plan that is
supposed to protect communities affected by Canadian Pacific Railway's
acquisition of the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E) Railroad. In comments
filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) on behalf of the
Rochester Coalition, Mayo Clinic also today proposed specific mitigation
measures that could ease local safety concerns.
    The STB currently is reviewing the Canadian Pacific's bid to take over
DM&E, which has among the worst safety records in the railroad industry and
presently operates on substandard tracks. If approved, the acquisition will
cause a dramatic increase in traffic, including hazardous materials shipments
on DM&E tracks, and may, according to the agreement between the railroads,
result in sending more than 43 high-speed, coal-unit-trains through Rochester
and within a few 100 feet of Mayo Clinic every day.
    Flaws in the current proposed safety plan include:
    --  Fails to require a timetable for rehabilitating faulty tracks.
    --  Neglects to make track improvements a condition for allowing increased
    hazardous materials shipments.
    --  Ignores conflicting statements from DM&E about the amounts of ethanol,
    anhydrous ammonia and other hazardous materials expected to be
    transported through Rochester.
    --  Fails to prioritize track maintenance or require specific emergency
    plans for responding to derailments in densely populated areas such as
    Rochester, which represents 40 percent of the total population located
    along the DM&E rail line.
    --  Overlooks the need for a specific emergency plan that in the event of
    a hazardous material derailment accounts for Mayo Clinic's 1,000 daily
    inpatients, 200 ICU beds, 200 daily surgeries and 30,000 doctors,
    nurses and staff.
    --  Fails to address the involvement of DM&E management in the operation
    of the merged railroad, providing no assurances for when or if DM&E
    will be required to meet Canadian Pacific's minimum safety standards.
    "It needs to be abundantly clear that the DM&E will be a safer railroad
as a result of this merger," said Glenn Forbes, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in
Rochester, Minn.
    An incident involving a release of hazardous materials such as anhydrous
ammonia near Mayo Clinic in Rochester would put at risk many thousands of
people, including patients in critical health situations and the more than
30,000 physicians and staff who would not leave their sides.
    "Accidents happen, even to safe railroads," added Forbes. "We can't leave
the safety of our patients and staff to chance, which is why we remain adamant
that everything within reason be done to ensure their safety."
    As currently proposed, the Canadian Pacific says it will provide
approximately $128 million in capital safety improvements to DM&E over the
next three years, in addition to DM&E's prior commitments of approximately
$172 million. However, these funds fall well short of DM&E's previously stated
needs, which were estimated at $875 million 10 years ago.
    DM&E president Kevin Schieffer recently was asked while under oath during
a deposition to confirm his compensation as a comparison to the amount the
Canadian Pacific is contributing to safety improvements. He did not answer.
Mr. Schieffer's personal compensation has been a topic of widespread
speculation since the Canadian Pacific announced it was acquiring the DM&E for
$1.48 billion and it was reported the deal included financial incentives tied
to completing DM&E's controversial Powder River Basin (PRB) expansion.
    "Given the DM&E's deplorable safety record, it is appropriate to compare
the money going into the pockets of DM&E's executives and shareholders from
the sale of DM&E, including incentives tied to the proposed PRB expansion,
with the amount being put toward safety improvements," said Steve Ryan, legal
counsel for Mayo Clinic. "The public has a right to know about what is
motivating DM&E's rush to advance the PRB expansion and if there is a
disproportionate investment being made in personal gains over public safety."
    Proposed Mitigation
    The STB has previously ruled that it will require mitigation only if the
Canadian Pacific decides to proceed with DM&E's controversial PRB expansion.
Mayo Clinic maintains that any increase in hazardous material shipments
through Rochester without adequate mitigation -- regardless of the PRB
expansion -- poses an unacceptable risk to the community and the patients and
staff of Mayo Clinic.
    As a condition of the Canadian Pacific's acquisition, Mayo Clinic today
requested the STB require specific mitigation for Rochester, including:

    --  Regulatory/contractual speed limits on local hazardous materials
    --  Pre-notification for Rochester emergency services of hazmat cargo.
    --  Whistle-free crossings for non-grade separated road crossings.
    --  Increased inspection and installation of wayside detectors, such as
        hot box/loose wheel detectors, to the west and east of Rochester to
        provide timely warning of potential problems prior to entering
        Rochester city limits.
    --  Fencing for bike paths and pedestrian crossings and sound barriers.
    --  Consultation on how best to minimize project-related impacts to Mayo
        Clinic, including limited transportation of hazardous materials
        through Rochester.
    --  Multiple grade separations for specific in-city road crossings. These
        grade separated crossings should be designed and located to facilitate
        the movement of emergency vehicles to and from medical facilities
        providing emergency services in Rochester, including Saint Marys
        Hospital and Rochester Methodist Hospital, which are both Mayo Clinic
    --  Negotiate voluntary contractual limitations on the total number of
        through-traffic trains moving through Rochester with Mayo Clinic and
        the City of Rochester.
    "The Surface Transportation Board should require mitigation for Rochester
as a condition of the DM&E sale," said Dr. Forbes. "Absent adequate mitigation
and mandated safety improvements, DM&E will not be a safer railroad as a
result of this acquisition but it will have more opportunity to make mistakes
that could prove catastrophic for our patients, staff and community."
    For nearly a decade, the DM&E has pursued a major rail expansion though
parts of southern Minnesota and South Dakota in order to haul large amounts of
coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to distribution points in the East.
Unable to secure private financing for the project, DM&E sought the largest
federal loan to a private company in American history -- a $2.3 billion loan
from U.S. taxpayers to finance a major rail expansion project through the
Midwest. On Feb. 26, 2007, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) denied
the DM&E's $2.3 billion loan application citing that the loan would have posed
an unacceptably high risk to federal taxpayers.
    In early September 2007, the Canadian Pacific announced its acquisition
of the DM&E.
    The Rochester Coalition is committed to protecting the people of
Rochester and the patients and staff at Mayo Clinic as well as other affected
communities. The Rochester Coalition represents the city of Rochester, Olmsted
County, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayo Clinic.

For further information:

For further information: Media, Jake Reint for Rochester Coalition, 

Organization Profile


More on this organization

Custom Packages

Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.

Start today.

CNW Membership

Fill out a CNW membership form or contact us at 1 (877) 269-7890

Learn about CNW services

Request more information about CNW products and services or call us at 1 (877) 269-7890