Crude Oil Track Defects Found and Corrected Throughout New York State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the successful completion of another round of targeted crude oil rail inspections intended to reduce potential dangers associated with the transport of crude oil across New York. Inspection teams examined approximately 140 miles of track and 87 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed seven critical defects and 32 non-critical defects.
“Rail inspections are a critical to the continued operation of New York’s transportation network and vital to the safety of those who live and work near these tracks,” Governor Cuomo said. “This rigorous inspection schedule has enabled us to find and quickly address defects in the system and we will continue to enforce strict standards to keep New Yorkers safe.”
An inspection team from the New York State Department of Transportation examined CSX mainline track between Ravena (Albany County) and Coxsackie (Greene County); between Rome (Oneida County) and Canastota (Madison County); in Rochester (Monroe County); between Blasdell and Alden (both in Erie County); and between Lyons (Wayne County) and Port Byron (Cayuga County).
Inspections also examined Canadian Pacific-owned mainline track Willsboro (Essex County) and Rouses Point (Clinton County); and between Albany (Albany County) and Clifton Park (Saratoga County).
The inspections focused on track and track hardware.
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. 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, “In partnering with the federal government and the railroad companies we have made New York State safer and reduced the risk of transporting volatile crude oil through the state. Governor Cuomo has made New York State a leader in rail safety and we will continue to closely monitor and improve our rail infrastructure.”
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 13,135 rail cars, including 11,127 crude oil tank cars, and 5,324 miles of track, uncovered 1,817 defects, and issued 24 hazardous materials violations.
Track Inspection Results
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Ravena to Coxsackie – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 10 miles of track and four switches along the CSX mainline between Ravena and Coxsackie. They found one critical defect for failing to ensure a mainline switch was locked when not in use. No non-critical defects were identified.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Rome to Canastota – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately two miles of track and 20 switches along the CSX mainline between Rome and Canastota. They found 10 non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts, missing guard rail end blocks, loose and missing bolts on switch transition devices, insufficient fasteners at a rail joint and a missing cotter pin.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Rochester – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately one mile of track and seven switches along the CSX mainline in Rochester. They found one critical defect – a center cracked joint bar – that was immediately corrected. No non-critical defects were identified.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Blasdell to Alden – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 26 miles of track and 29 switches along the CSX mainline between Blasdell and Alden. They found two critical defects, including a broken wing rail on a switch transition device and having less than two bolts per rail at a joint, both of which have been repaired. Inspectors found 11 non-critical defects, including loose bolts on a switch transition device, loose guard rail bolts, insufficient fasteners, fouled ballast, loose adjustable rail braces and loose switch rod bolts.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Lyons to Port Byron – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 22 miles of track and 15 switches along the CSX mainline between Lyons and Port Byron. They found two critical defects, including less than two bolts per rail at a joint, and worn tread on a switch transition device, both of which have been repaired. Inspectors found seven non-critical defects, including loose switch rod bolts, loose guard rail clips, missing rail brace, missing bolts on a switch transition device and missing cotter pins.
CP Mainline Track Inspection – Willsboro to Rouses Point – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 49 miles of track and five switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Willsboro and Rouses Point. They found one non-critical defect, a loose switch rod bolt.
CP Mainline Track Inspection – Albany to Clifton Park – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 30 miles of track and seven switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Albany and Clifton Park. They found one critical defect, a center cracked joint bar, which has been repaired. Inspectors found three non-critical defects, including missing bolts on a switch transition device, broken bolts on a switch transition device and an insecure heel of switch.
Following a series of out-of-state disasters involving the transport of crude oil by rail, New York State has taken a series of aggressive actions to improve the safety and reliability of the practice.
In 2014, 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 and federal government and industry to take to reduce risks and increase public safety in the transport of crude oil.
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;
- Calling on federal authorities to expedite and strengthen rail safety standards and increase inspections; and
- Increasing the Oil Spill Fund cap from $25 million to $40 million and allowing up to $2.1 million of the Fund annually to be used for prevention and preparedness measures.
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.