Governor Cuomo announced the successful completion of targeted crude oil tank car and rail inspections initiated as part of his push to protect New Yorkers from the potential dangers associated with the transport of crude oil by freight rail companies. Last week, state and federal teams examined 445 crude oil tank cars, approximately 128 miles of track and 66 switches as part of these inspections and uncovered and addressed four critical defects and 91 non-critical defects.
“These inspections are critical to helping ensure these rail networks remain safe and that New Yorkers can work, travel and live near them without anxiety,” Governor Cuomo said. “This partnership with the federal government and railroad companies is an essential piece in improving rail tracks and tank cars in virtually every corner of the state.”
Inspection teams from the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration carried out crude oil tanker inspections at the Canadian Pacific-owned Kenwood Yard in Albany (Albany County) and two CSX Corporation-owned rail yards -- Selkirk Yard in Selkirk (Albany County) and Frontier Yard in Buffalo (Erie County).
The inspections focused on track, track hardware and tank car mechanical safety equipment, including wheels and brakes. The teams also performed hazardous materials inspections to ensure that equipment is in line with regulations, including valves, value closures, and placards that describe the cargo being shipping. They also checked tank car inspection and pressure test dates.
The inspectors also examined four sections of CSX mainline track:
- Between Alden (Erie County) and Batavia (Genesee County)
- Between Fonda (Montgomery County) and Amsterdam (Montgomery County)
- Between Fonda (Montgomery County) and Rome (Oneida County)
- In Marlboro (Ulster County)
Additionally, inspectors examined Canadian Pacific mainline track from Burnt Hills (Saratoga County) to Fort Edward (Washington County) and track at the CSX-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo.
During the inspections, two types of defects are identified—Critical and Non-Critical. Critical defects identify important maintenance issues that must be addressed immediately, but do not necessarily indicate safety lapses. Non-critical rail defects must be repaired within 30 days, while all tank car defects must be fixed before the train departs the yard. If that is not possible, the affected car must be pulled from the train to await repair.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Safe and secure rail tracks and cars are essential to keeping our economy moving and our businesses operating efficiently. Governor Cuomo’s safety measures lowers risk and ensures New Yorkers are protected.”
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 10,815 rail cars (including 8,807 crude oil tank cars) and 3,514 miles of track, uncovered 1,374 defects, and issued 20 hazardous materials violations.
Tank Car Inspection Results
Albany – At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration examined 120 crude oil tank cars at the Global Energy facility and found five non-critical defects, including thin brake shoes, missing knuckle pins and a damaged hazardous material placard.
Selkirk – At the Selkirk Yard in Selkirk, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 118 crude oil tank cars and found three non-critical defects, including damaged hazardous material placards.
Buffalo – At the Frontier Yard in Buffalo, rail equipment inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration examined 102 crude oil tank cars and found seven non-critical defects, including thin brake shoes, an obstructed platform, an inoperative light on a locomotive step, and a missing continuous barrier on a top operating platform. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration hazardous material inspectors also examined 105 crude oil tank cars and found two non-critical defects, including loose head shield bolts.
Track Inspection Results
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Alden to Batavia – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 24 miles of track and 11 switches along the CSX mainline between Alden, Erie County and Batavia, Genesee County. The inspectors found one non-critical defect: insufficient fasteners at a rail joint.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Fonda to Amsterdam– Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately three miles of track and 15 switches along the CSX mainline between Fonda and Amsterdam and found two critical defects, including a track gauge defect and worn tread on a switch transition device, which were repaired immediately. They also found 26 non-critical defects, including loose, worn or missing cotter pins, clip bolts, guard rail bolts, adjustable rail braces and switch transition device bolts, insufficient fasteners and switch fasteners not maintained.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Fond to Rome – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 62 miles of track and five switches along the CSX mainline between Fonda and Rome and found one critical defect, a guard check gauge less than allowable, which has been repaired. Inspectors also found five non-critical defects, including loose, worn or missing switch rod bolts and switch transition device bolts, and an insecure heel switch.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Marlboro – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately one mile of track and one switch along the CSX mainline track in Marlboro and found one critical defect, a less than allowable guard check gauge, which was immediately repaired.
Canadian Pacific Mainline Track Inspection – Burnt Hills to Fort Edward – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 34 miles of track and 11 switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline between Burnt Hills and Fort Edward. The inspectors found 13 non-critical defects, including loose, worn or missing guard rail bolts, rail braces and clamps; loose, worn or missing switch bolts, adjustable rail braces and clip bolts; insecure switch heel; broken switch plates; and fouled ballast.
Frontier Rail Yard - Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined four miles of track and 23 switches at the CSX-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo and found 29 non-critical defects, including loose, worn or missing switch transition device bolts, guard rail bolts, cotter pins, heel blocks, fasteners, switch rod bolts and adjustable braces, damaged rail and tread wear on a switch transition device.
Operating Practice Inspection Results
Department of Transportation inspectors checked that crude oil and ethanol tank cars were properly secured on Canadian Pacific mainline tracks at Green Street in the Port of Albany, in Ballston Spa (Saratoga Counties) and at the Colonie Rail Yard (Albany County). All unattended equipment was properly secured and the locomotives were locked, as required.
Following a series of out-of-state disasters involving the transport of crude oil, New York State has taken a series of aggressive actions to improve the safety and reliability of the practice.
Last year, at the direction of Governor Cuomo, the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Transportation and Health, along with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the Energy Research and Development Authority conducted a coordinated review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness for crude oil shipments. The agencies issued a report in April 2014 containing 27 recommendations for state government, federal government and industry to take to reduce risks and increase public safety in the transport of crude oil.
To date, state agencies have begun to implement all 12 state government recommendations and have completed five. Specifically, New York State has taken 66 actions to better prepare state and local responders in the event of a crude oil incident as detailed in a December 2014 progress report.
In addition, Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda and the 2015-16 New York State Budget included several measures to further prevent and prepare for potential crude oil incidents. These include providing the necessary funding for staff and associated preparedness costs by increasing the Oil Spill Fund cap to $40 million from $25 million and allowing up to $2.1 million of the Fund annually to be used for prevention and preparedness measures. These changes support compliance with Governor Cuomo's Executive Order 125, which outlines steps the state is taking to improve oil spill response and prevention.
The state budget provided for eight new employees at the Department of Environmental Conservation and six at the Office of Fire Protection and Control dedicated to oil spill planning, training and response. The budget also increased fees for oil transported through New York to 13.75 cents per barrel from 12.25 cents for oil imported into the state, and 1.5 cents for transshipped oil, irrespective of whether the oil remains in New York or is transferred on to another State. In-state end users will be exempted from the fee increase and will remain at 12.25 cents per barrel.
Governor Cuomo also initiated the hiring of five new Department of Transportation rail safety inspectors, which has allowed the Department of Transportation to increase its capacity to perform rail safety inspections across the state.
Other state actions include:
- Urging federal authorities to revise design specifications and expedite the phase-out of older, unsafe rails cars; implement more stringent standards to test crude oil; and review the routing of crude oil to ensure the most appropriate routes;
- Issuing fines to companies that fail to comply with state regulations related to derailments; and
- Calling on federal authorities to expedite and strengthen rail safety standards and increase inspections.
State and emergency response officials also participated in more than two dozen training exercises last year to better prepare our communities for potential crude oil disasters.
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