The Union Pacific Railroad and the Federal Railroad Administration – Literally In Bed With Each Other

As we were writing to the top elected officials in the towns of Northbrook and Glenview, IL today to inform them of the results of our investigation of the quality of Union Pacific’s “maintenance” of the remaining uncollapsed railroad bridges in their towns, we were compelled to do some quick research in order to remind ourselves, once again, just how long-running that criminal conspiracy called the Union Pacific Railroad has been.

Our very first search took us – where else? – to Wikipedia, which supplied us with these nuggets of information regarding UP’s safety record of late:

“On June 28, 2004 in Macdona, Texas a UP train collided with an idle BNSF train resulting in the puncturing of a 90-ton tank car carrying liquified chlorine. As the chlorine vaporized, a toxic “yellow cloud” soon formed which killed 3 (the UP conductor and two residents nearby) and caused 43 hospitalizations. The costs of cleanup and property damaged during the incident exceeded 7 million dollars.

“Another derailment in November 1994 killed a bystander in a neighboring business in San Antonio. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson demanded a federal investigation in the Union Pacific crashes around Bexar County.[20] Area civic leaders called for the rerouting of Union Pacific’s hazardous chemicals around the city altogether.[citation needed] In March 2005, Texas Governor Rick Perry supported a plan to reroute trains around large urban population centers in the state of Texas, including San Antonio[21]

“Various investigations of the Macdona incident have revealed several serious safety lapses on the part of the Union Pacific and its employees; specifically, Federal Railroad Administration officials in 2004 have reported that the Union Pacific had “notable deficiencies”, including its employees not following the company’s own safety rules.  While initial reports blamed “fatigue” of the crew of the UP train,[citation needed] many other contributing factors have been cited. Among those, the chlorine tank cars were improperly placed near the front of the train. Cars containing hazardous materials have traditionally been placed away from the front of the train, an operational measure used to safeguard against the likelihood of the such cars being among the first affected in a derailment and to reduce their likelihood of colliding with heavier steel cars.[clarification needed]

“In the aftermath of the Macdona and other incidents, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) signed a compliance agreement with the railroad in November 2004 in which the railroad promised to rectify the “notable deficiencies” that regulators found.  Specifically, the agreement mandated increased training for railroad managers and increased the number of FRA inspectors in the region by 10.  United States Assemblyman Charlie Gonzalez questioned if the agreement went far enough; he and other Congressional delegation members questioned the FRA’s “partnership” approach as being “too cozy a relationship to the railroads” and cited an article in The New York Times that reported that the acting FRA administrator, Betty Monro, and the chief lobbyist for Union Pacific, Mary E. McAuliffe, had vacationed several times together on Nantucket.

“The railroad’s San Antonio Service Unit (SASU) has had other derailments,  including a Schulenburg, Texas incident in June 2009 where tank cars containing chlorine and petroleum naptha xylene derailed but were not punctured.

“On June 24, 2012, three crew members were killed when two Union Pacific trains slammed into each other just east of Goodwell, about 300 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. One of the trains should have been waiting on a side track for the other train to pass. The crash triggered a diesel-fueled fireball that appeared to weld the locomotives together.”
[Source: Wikipedia – “Union Pacific Railroad”]

They haven’t even updated this article to include the Union Pacific’s murder of the Lindners at the Shermer Rd. bridge in Glenview, IL on July 4th, 2012.

But that’s nothing!  Did you read that thing about the UP’s chief lobbyist and the Federal Railroad Administration’s then-acting administrator vacationing together on Nantucket?  For years!

Oh, my!  Why is it that the Glenview and Northbrook town officials never expressed even the slightest bit of dismay over the FRA and not the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) conducting the investigation of the corporate murder of the Lindners?  Are they completely unaware that the FRA and UP are, apparently, literally in bed together?

So, being the unpaid investigators of these things that we are, and knowing that the village executives who make hundreds of times more money than we do for doing their jobs will never bother to even do the most cursory investigation into the incestuous history of the FRA and the UP, we dug a bit further.

The Wikipedia article cites a New York Times article – “Regulators Plan to Step Up Union Pacific Safety Checks” –

from 2004!   This article merely alludes to the criminal relationship that exists between the Union Pacific Railroad and its “regulator”, the FRA.

So, we dug further into the archives of the New York Times and found this jewel:

“For Railroads and the Safety Overseer, Close Ties” .    This is also from 2004, and it’s almost unbelievable.

“Federal inspectors were clearly troubled by what they had been seeing in recent years at Union Pacific. According to their written accounts, track defects repeatedly went uncorrected; passenger trains were sent down defective tracks at speeds more than four times faster than were deemed safe; and engines and rail cars were dispatched in substandard condition.

“Soon, the inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration began talking tough: bigger fines and more of them. But as they began to crack down on the railroad, they found themselves under fire from an unexpected quarter: their boss, the agency’s deputy administrator, Betty Monro.

“Ms. Monro demanded to know why agency officials had not pursued the less punitive ‘partnership’ approach that she favored, according to a July 2002 memo from her and the agency’s chief at the time, Allan Rutter. A year later, in a senior staff meeting, Ms. Monro rebuked her subordinates as being ‘overly aggressive’ toward Union Pacific, according to one person present.

Ms. Monro, who now runs the railroad agency, was in a position to know just how unhappy her inspectors were making officials at Union Pacific. She and the railroad’s chief Washington lobbyist, Mary E. McAuliffe, are longtime friends and have vacationed together on Nantucket several times since Ms. Monro joined the agency in 2001.

“The railroad industry and its federal overseer have long been closely intertwined. And increasingly, like many other federal regulators, the Federal Railroad Administration has emphasized partnership as the best, quickest way to identify, and fix, safety problems from the roots up. But the story of its recent oversight of Union Pacific – spelled out in a series of internal memorandums from agency officials and inspectors – raises questions about whether this closeness has actually served to dull the agency’s enforcement edge…”

Isn’t that sweet?  Why aren’t the so-called “leaders” of Glenview and Northbrook out there saying “NO FUCKING WAY are we going to allow the FRA to oversee an investigation of the Union Pacific Railroad!”  Glenview’s President, Kerry Cummings has a law degree from Kent College of Law and works for… the Northern Trust bank.  Gee, I wonder if they have any business with the Union Pacific?

Sandra Frum, Northbrook’s Village President is an officer with the League of Women Voters, so she should know better than to… no, wait.  Forget it.

These are little fish, swimming with the sharks, so they have a choice: clean the shark’s gills or eat the parasites that infect the shark’s skin or… get eaten yourself.

And what they both know better than anything is: play ball with the big railroads and you’ll get PAID!  Check this out, from the just-quoted NYT article:

“Another big railroad company, CSX, offered the [FRA’s] chief safety official a job potentially worth $324,000 a year, with bonuses and stock options, while he [was] visiting railroad headquarters to discuss safety problems. After the official, James T. Schultz, accepted the job several days later, a federal watchdog asked that agency officials be instructed on the ethics of discussing job offers”!  “Instructed on ethics”!  Ha! That’s a hoot!

Here’s more:

“The industry is a rich source of campaign contributions, mostly to the Republicans, with Union Pacific as the biggest giver. It’s corporate political action committee was among the top ten donors to Republican candidates for this election cycle, and Ms. McAuliffe is the treasurer of the company’s PAC.

“The railroad’s chairman, Dick Davidson, is identified by the Bush campaign as a ‘Ranger,’ having raised more than $200,000 for the president. Until he became Mr. Bush’s running mate in 2000, Dick Cheney was a member of the Union Pacific board.”

Do you really need to know more about the relationship between the “regulator” and the “regulatee”?  Isn’t this just the same old story of how corporate money has caused the corruption of the entire US Government, from small towns to the White House?

Isn’t it time we had a political party that represents the working class, so we can clean house for real in Chicago, Illinois, the rest of the US and that cess pit they call the national government in Washington DC?

IWPCHI

[Sources: Wikipedia; The New York Times; official websites of Glenview and Northbrook, IL; Knox College website]

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