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Protestors Demand Safety Hearings Following Port Richmond Train Derailment

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Just one day after a train derailed in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, faith leaders are using the upcoming Easter holiday to protest local oil companies and to lawmakers to look at the safety of shipping hazardous materials on freight trains in residential areas.

Nearly 80 protesters held signs near 17th and Market Streets outside of Philadelphia Energy Systems Thursday. The group is sounding the alarm on the shipment of hazardous materials on deteriorating tracks and infrastructure.

"We are concerned with the transport of highly toxic and combustible crude oil through the city neighborhoods in South Philadelphia," says Peter Winslow, president of Evolve, Inc. -- an environmental non-profit and one of the organizers of the protest. He says recent derailments in Port Richmond, South Philadelphia and a near oil spill in the Schuylkill River underscore the need for safety checks to ensure that trains carrying oil and other explosive materials will not endanger the community:

"If one of these trains were to derail and explode the way they have in North Dakota and Alabama, the disaster that accrues to Philadelphia would be absolutely horrific," says Winslow.

Philadelphia City Council held a hearing last month where CSX Rail Company executives explained to lawmakers how the derailments could have happened.

"We will be doing a follow-up hearing in City Council to look at the issue of freight trains that come through Philadelphia," says Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. "We want to make sure that the companies are investing in their infrastructure and that in the event a catastrophe takes place there is a plan to ensure that residents are safe."

Johnson says City Council also hopes to create a task force to work with the Federal Railway Administration, the Department of Transportation and the Office of Emergency Management to create safety strategy for trains in neighborhoods.

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