|Phoenix—Today’s Union Pacific train derailment, fire, and bridge collapse in the City of Tempe poses a significant danger to the health and safety of the people in Tempe and surrounding communities. My thoughts are with the First Responders, the community, the workers, and any bystanders who were there at the time. As we wait for more information regarding this incident, elected officials throughout Arizona should take a moment to consider how important long-term investments in our infrastructure and regulatory processes are to the health and safety of all Arizonans.
The Arizona Corporation Commission (“ACC”) regulates railroad crossings throughout the state, in addition to many other responsibilities. Though the ACC was written into the state Constitution in 1912 and is known as the fourth branch of government, our funding for certain operations come from the State General Fund. Those purse strings are held tight by the Legislature and the Governor. For the past four years, the ACC has asked for additional funds in order to hire more Safety Division inspectors. The Railroad Safety Section is an integral part of the ACC’s Safety Division. The Section is responsible for inspection activities on both intrastate and interstate railroads operating in Arizona. In addition to their other responsibilities, the Safety Division inspectors ensure that rail transportation of hazardous materials is done in accordance with state and federal law. Our Safety Division has written 14 hazardous material violations for just one company since 2016. A fully staffed Safety Division is critical for the well-being of our state, and yet, the Republican-led Legislature and the Republican Governor have denied this request, except for a one-time appropriation in 2019. The Commission is asking for that appropriation again in our soon-to-be-filed Fiscal Year 2022 budget request.
We are at a tipping point in the need for more Railroad Safety inspector. Unfortunately, there have been three major derailments in Arizona in the last two months. Phoenix has five of the top 15 most dangerous crossings in the country, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. We need to hire more Safety Division inspectors to keep up with this increase. The failure of Governor Ducey and the Republican-led legislature to provide the funds requested has placed Arizona at a disadvantage and our future has been compromised. They should be called on to account for their refusal to sufficiently fund our infrastructure, which includes critical regulatory protections. The future of Arizonans depends on it.
You can contact Commissioner Kennedy by email at SDKennedyfirstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SandraDKennedy.
About Commissioner Kennedy:
Sandra D. Kennedy was re-elected to the Corporation Commission in 2018 on a platform of restoring integrity to the Commission, lowering unjustified utility rate increases, and creating more solar and renewable energy in Arizona, especially roof top solar. Commissioner Kennedy was first elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2008 on a platform of promoting solar energy in Arizona, and as a fierce consumer advocate. She started her public service when she was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in November 1986, where she served for six years before successfully becoming a state senator in 1992. She served three terms as State Senator. Sandra was also elected to serve on the Phoenix Union High School Governing Board for a four-year term in 1990, serving concurrently with her last term in the Arizona House and her first term in the State Senate.
The Arizona Corporation Commission was established by the state’s constitution to regulate public utilities and business incorporation. The Corporation Commission is Arizona’s co-equal, fourth branch of government. The five Commissioners elected to the Corporation Commission oversee executive, legislative, and judicial proceedings on behalf of Arizonans when it comes to their water, electricity, telephone, and natural gas resources as well as the regulation of securities, pipeline, and railroad safety. To learn more about the Arizona Corporation Commission and its Commissioners, visit http://azcc.gov.