Sonoma Co. residents raise concerns over hazardous materials stored in trains

SCHELLVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, a transit railroad and the freight line to which is leases track, remain in a stand-off over how those tracks may be used.

It is standard procedure for railroads to park cars and charge for storage. But what about when it is hazardous material?

It's where the board of the Sonoma Marin Rail Transit, or Smart, has drawn a line and where a freight line is fighting back.

Residents in Schellville do not like liquefied petroleum gas being stored in their backyard. As Saira Lopez sees it, the view from outside her home in could definitely be better. The cows don't bother here, but these parked railroad cars containing two million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas do,

They've been there for two weeks.

"It's kind of scary because one time I thought I saw smoke coming out of them," said Lopez.

The cars sit along a railroad spur owned by SMART, but SMART trains don't run here. Freight trains do, according to a lease agreement with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. And SMART wants them out.

"If anything would happen with that much hazardous material, you can have many miles of significant disaster, and that is what our board is worried about," explained Farhad Mansourian, General Manager of SMART.

The question is if SMART has jurisdiction to force compliance? Mitch Stogner, who runs the California's North Coast Railroad Authority, says SMART is out of bounds on this one.

"I think they are legally off base in the fact that freight trains are legislated by the federal government, plain and simple," said Stogner.

So now, the two agencies are heading for a showdown. SMART is concerned about public safety around its tracks. The freight line says about its ability to conduct business.

"We are for freight business. Movement of goods. But we believe storage of hazardous material is out of the agreement we have with the freight company," said Mansourian.

"If every town and locality tried to step in and stop interstate commerce, we would not have an interstate commerce system," said Stogner.

And in the middle of it all, a young mother with a child, who worries about the liquefied natural gas - practically in her backyard.

"I don't want it here," said Lopez.

The Northwest Pacific Railroad did not respond to interview requests.
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