Defects Found and Corrected, Public Safety Increased
Governor Cuomo announced completion of another round of targeted crude oil tank car and rail inspections. These inspections uncovered 62 defects, including one critical safety defect that required immediate corrective action. The inspections are part of the Governor’s push to protect New Yorkers from the potential dangers associated with the transport of crude oil by freight rail companies. State and federal teams examined 524 crude oil tank cars and approximately 152 miles of track and 38 rail switches in these inspections.
“The number of safety defects detected in the latest round of crude oil inspections shows that our administration’s efforts are making a difference when it comes to keeping New Yorkers safe,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will continue to conduct this aggressive regimen of rail inspections and work with our partners to hold crude oil transporters to highest possible safety standards and protect our communities from potential emergencies.”
Last week, 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; the CSX Corporation-owned Selkirk Yard in Albany County and Frontier Yard in Buffalo, Erie County; and the Buffalo & Pittsburgh-owned D&E Yard in Buffalo.
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, valve closures, and placards that describe the cargo being shipped. They also checked tank car inspection and pressure test dates.
The inspectors also examined the CSX mainline track:
- In Buffalo
- Between Rotterdam, Schenectady County and Fonda, Montgomery County
- Between Milton, Ulster County and Selkirk, Albany County
- Between Milton and Nyack, Rockland County
Additionally, they inspected the Canadian Pacific mainline track at the Kenwood Rail Yard in the city of Albany.
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 will be pulled from the train to await repair.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Our transportation network relies on rail to move freight and people quickly and safely across New York State. It is crucial that our rail infrastructure is kept in safe working order. Governor Cuomo has shown over the past year that by working with our federal partners we can, and will make our rail corridors and the cars that carry volatile oil across New York safe.”
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Buffalo – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately one mile of track and six switches along the CSX mainline in the city of Buffalo, Erie County. The inspectors found two non-critical defects, including a missing rail anchor and a loose rail brace.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Rotterdam to Fonda – The Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 39 miles of track and 10 switches along the CSX mainline from Rotterdam in Schenectady County to Fonda in Montgomery County. The inspectors found 23 non-critical defects, including loose or missing switch rod bolts, switch plates, adjustable rail braces, guard rail bolts and switch transition device bolts, insecure switch point and fouled ballast.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Milton to Selkirk – The Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 64 miles of track and two switches along the CSX mainline from Milton, Ulster County to Selkirk, Albany County. The inspectors found one critical defect, a missing bolt on a continuously welded rail joint, which was repaired immediately. The inspectors also found one non-critical defect, a loose switch rod bolt.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Milton to Nyack – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 46 miles of track and one switch along the CSX mainline between Milton, Ulster County and Nyack, Rockland County. The inspectors found five non-critical defects, including fouled ballast, loose or missing switch rod bolts and cotter pins, and insufficient fasteners.
Kenwood Yard – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined two miles of track and 19 switches at the Canadian Pacific-owned Kenwood Yard in Albany County and found 10 non-critical safety defects, including loose or missing bolts and cotter pins and an insecure switch point.
Tank Car Inspections
Albany – At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, rail equipment inspectors examined 100 crude oil tank cars and found three non-critical defects, including thin brake shoes and a defective air hose and hose valve. Inspectors also examined 120 crude oil tank cars at Global Energy’s facility and found eight non-critical defects, including shelled wheels, a defective knuckle pin and a broken brake cylinder component.
Selkirk – At the Selkirk Yard in Selkirk, hazardous material inspectors examined 105 crude oil tank cars and found no defects.
Buffalo – At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, rail equipment inspectors examined 56 crude oil tank cars and found five non-critical defects, including thin brake shoes, missing knuckle pins and bolts, and a loose platform for standing at the end of a rail car. Hazardous material inspectors examined 102 crude oil tank cars and found four non-critical defects for loose or missing bolts.
At Buffalo & Pittsburgh’s D Yard in Buffalo, hazardous material inspectors examined 41 crude oil tank cars and found no defects.
Operating Practice Inspections
Port of Albany – On the Canadian Pacific main track at Green Street in the Port of Albany, operating practice inspectors checked for proper train securement. An empty northbound crude oil train was found to be properly secured.
Since this targeted inspection campaign began in February 2014, Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 10,370 rail cars (including 8,362 crude oil tank cars) and 3,386 miles of track, uncovered 1,279 defects, and issued 20 hazardous materials violations.
Increased inspections of railroad tracks and tank cars are one of the aggressive actions New York State has taken following a series of out-of-state disasters involving the transport of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields centered in North Dakota.
Last year, at the direction of Governor Cuomo, state agencies conducted a coordinated review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to increased shipments of Bakken crude 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.
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 as detailed in a progress report released in December. The state will continue to work to fully implement all 12 recommendations.
In addition, Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda and the 2015-16 State Budget includes 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 provides 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 increases 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.