December 1, 2014
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Significant Progress to Better Protect New Yorkers from Crude Oil Rail Transport Incidents

Governor Cuomo Announces Significant Progress to Better Protect New Yorkers from Crude Oil Rail Transport Incidents

Status Report Outlines 66 Actions Taken to Implement Executive Order 125

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today received a status report outlining the significant progress that has been made by multiple State agencies to better protect New York’s communities and environment from the potential risks associated with the transport of crude oil. After being directed by the Governor to evaluate New York’s capacity to prevent and address crude oil accidents, State agencies have implemented 66 actions to strengthen standards, regulations and procedures to make the transport of crude oil by rail and water in New York safer, and to improve spill preparedness and response.

“Over the past six months, our administration has taken swift and decisive action to increase the State’s preparedness and better protect New Yorkers from the possibility of a crude oil disaster,” Governor Cuomo said. “Now it is time for our federal partners to do the same. The federal government plays a vital role in regulating this industry, and Washington must step up in order to expedite the implementation of safer policies and rules for crude oil transport.”

Earlier this year, state agencies conducted a coordinated review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to shipments of volatile crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota across nearly 1,000 miles of New York State. 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. The status report released today highlights the state’s actions to implement recommendations of that comprehensive, multi-state agency evaluation.

To date, state agencies have started 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. New York State will continue to work to fully implement all 12 recommendations.

Federal agencies have begun to take action on several of the report’s recommendations, but the pace has been unacceptably slow. The rail industry supports many of the State’s recommendations, has made progress on one recommendation, and instituted several voluntary measures outside of the report’s recommendations. However, the oil production industry has resisted stronger tank car standards and regulations requiring companies to reduce the volatility of crude prior to shipment.

New York State will continue to urge federal and industry officials to expeditiously take measures to further safeguard New Yorkers, including expediting the finalization of regulations to improve standards for tank cars and committing to reducing the volatility of crude oil by removing dissolved gases prior to oil shipment.

Key actions New York State has taken include:

  • Performing Rail Safety Inspections: The State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) added five new rail safety inspectors to improve existing rail safety enforcement capabilities. NYSDOT initiated seven crude oil inspection blitzes and teamed up with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to inspect 6,664 rail cars, including 4,656 DOT-111 cars, and 2,564 miles of track. As a result, 740 track and rail equipment defects were detected along with 12 hazardous material violations.
  • Preparing First Responders: State agencies participated in CSX’s railroad and tank car training this summer for staff and local responders in the Hudson Valley, Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo and took part in three preparedness training exercises sponsored by Canadian Pacific railroad and Global Partners LLP. In addition, the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) has increased crude oil-related training for local fire service organizations and is developing new training programs. The State Office of Fire Prevention and Control has also provided strategic and tactical guidance for fire department operations during the initial phase of a rail incident that may occur involving crude oil. The State DHSES has access to real-time data from CSX hazardous materials and has requested similar access from Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern.
  • Updating and Enhancing Response Plans: DEC secured the commitment of the federal government to update long overdue oil spill response plans that are required by federal statute. In addition, the State, with the U.S. Coast Guard, began its evaluation of vessel response plans for tankers and tugs transporting crude in New York to ensure proper response protocols account for any unique risks associated with Bakken Crude and Canadian tar sands crude oil.
  • Pushing for Aggressive Federal Action: Through meetings, letter and formal comments, the State urged federal officials to expeditiously implement stringent regulatory changes that would: improve tank car design specifications and expedite the phase-out of older, unsafe rail cars; require comprehensive, geographically specific oil spill response plans for crude oil trains; implement more stringent standards to test and stabilize crude oil; mandate automated braking systems for rail companies; and review the routing of crude oil to ensure the most appropriate routes.
  • Urging Oil and Rail Industries to Increase Safety of Shipment: The State urged the American Petroleum Institute, the federal government and the governor of North Dakota to take action to remove volatile gases from Bakken crude prior to shipping it across the country. The North Dakota Industrial Commissioner proposed draft regulations to remove the gases at the source and signaled it would vote in favor of the measure later this month.

NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said, “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, NYSDOT has moved aggressively to ensure freight rail companies hauling crude oil are complying with federal safety regulations through a series of targeted inspections. Governor Cuomo also led the way in urging USDOT to finalize long overdue new regulations for tank cars, a process that is now underway. New York State remains committed to doing all it can to protect communities from potential accidents involving crude oil transport by rail.”

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said, “Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 125 has given us clear direction to review and improve New York State’s preparedness for crude oil spills. In the first seven months we have made significant progress implementing the recommendations in the E.O. 125 report and demonstrating that New York State continues to be the most aggressive state in the nation when it comes to protecting our communities and the environment.”

DHSES Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer said, “New York State remains committed to reducing the potential hazards posed to our communities by transporting Bakken Crude through New York State. It is through a proactive, comprehensive approach of prevention, mitigation, and response capability enhancements that we will be able to reduce the likelihood of a major disaster.”

Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office:  212.681.4640

Albany Press Office:  518.474.8418