Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s RESPONSE Act – legislation aimed at rail safety – was supposed to be voted on in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this morning. The bill would have had FEMA provide instruction to Congress about response to train derailments involving hazardous material.
Obviously, this is a big deal for North Dakota given how much oil from the state is shipped by rail and how often explosive oil train derailments have gotten headlines lately (including the one in Casselton, North Dakota).
But Heitkamp pulled the bill after Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, tacked on an amendment which would also have had FEMA report on whether the use of pipelines – including the Keystone XL pipeline – would improve transportation safety.
You wouldn’t think Senator Heitkmap would have objected to the amendment. It was topical to Heitkamp’s bill – you can’t talk about oil-by-rail safety without talking about pipelines too – and the Senator made a big stink about how she’d resist her fellow Democrats on the Keystone issue during her 2012 campaign.
Remember these campaign commercials touting Heitkamp’s willingness to “stand up” to Obama on the Keystone pipeline issue, specifically?
Those are fine words for the campaign stump, but when it comes to backing legislation that would move the ball forward on Keystone (and other oil pipeline infrastructure) even incrementally, Heitkamp is skittish.
I guess Heitkamp is a bit more afraid of standing up to her party and President Obama than she let on.