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Colorado State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Pearson 

Colorado BLET members are working hard to secure passage of a major rail safety bill in the state’s legislature. BLET Vice President & National Legislative Representative Vince Verna, BLET Colorado State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Pearson, and BLET Auxiliary National 2nd Vice President & Legislative Representative Natalie Miller all testified in favor of House Bill 1030 on April 17 during a hearing hosted by the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee.

Among other safety improvements, the proposed Colorado legislation limits train length to 8,500 feet, requires railroads to better train workers and community firefighters to handle hazardous spills, and gives railroad union representatives a way to investigate safety issues. It also requires railroad companies to install wayside detectors on every 10 to 15 miles of track and requires railroad companies to maintain insurance policies to cover the cost of spills and accidents. The legislation creates a fine structure for railroads that violate the new rules.

The safety bill is not the only rail-related bill currently under debate in Colorado. Legislators are also considering a measure to expand passenger rail. In an interview with the Colorado Sun, however, BLET State Chairman Pearson said that legislators must address rail safety before considering passenger rail expansion: “Before we consider Uinta Basin or passenger rail traffic in Colorado, it’s important the issues in House Bill 1030 be addressed. It’s an important first step on our path to passenger rail along the Front Range and west into the mountains.”

BLET has lobbied for the legislation as part of a multi-faceted rail safety coalition, which includes labor and environmental groups.

“The Colorado AFL-CIO and the Colorado Blue Green Alliance were instrumental and have led the way in our fight to see 1030 end up on the desk of Governor Polis,” Pearson said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of a diverse and united coalition. I am a strong believer that for us to make some of the changes necessary to benefit our membership and our communities, broad strong coalition-building is a must.”

In addition to the AFL-CIO and the Colorado Blue Green Alliance, Pearson said additional coalition members supporting HB 1030 include: AFSCME, AFT Colorado, Colorado Education Association, Colorado Professional Firefighters, Colorado Sierra Club, Colorado Trout Unlimited, Conservation Colorado, Green Latinos, Teamsters Local 455, USW District 12, Natural Resources Defense Council, Adams County Board of County Commissioners, City of Commerce City, City of Fort Collins, Colorado Municipal League, League of Women Voters, and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.