Crude Oil Tank Car and 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 State. Inspection teams examined 104 crude oil tank cars, approximately 184 miles of track and 89 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed four critical defects and 42 non-critical defects.
“Inspecting tank cars and rail tracks that carry crude oil across New York is critically important to maintaining public safety,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our rigorous inspection schedule helps ensure defects are found and corrected promptly, and we will continue to enforce our strict standards to keep safe those who live, work and travel near these tracks.”
Inspection teams from the New York State Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration carried out crude oil tanker inspections at the CSX Corporation-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, Erie County. The inspectors also examined CSX mainline track between Blauvelt (Rockland County) and Newburgh (Orange County); between Highland and Kingston (both in Ulster County); at the Selkirk Rail Yard in Selkirk (Albany County); between Selkirk and Schodack Center (Rensselaer County); between Selkirk and the Port of Albany (Albany County); between Selkirk and Rotterdam (Schenectady County); between Rochester and Chili (both in Monroe County); between Savanah and Lyons (both in Wayne County); and between Chili and Alden (Erie County).
Inspectors also examined Canadian Pacific-owned mainline track between Mechanicville (Saratoga County) and Albany (Albany County).
The inspections focused on track, track hardware and tank car mechanical safety equipment, including wheels, brakes and couplers.
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, “Governor Cuomo has made New York State a nationally respected leader in rail safety. We will continue to closely monitor tank cars and rail tracks to reduce the risk of deadly disasters and ensure the safety of our rail infrastructure.”
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 11,231 crude oil tank cars, and 5,508 miles of track, uncovered 1,863 defects, and issued 24 violations.
Tank Car Inspection Results
Buffalo – At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, rail equipment inspectors and hazardous materials inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 104 crude oil tank cars. They found no defects.
Track Inspection Results
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Blauvelt to Newburgh – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 33 miles of track and four switches along the CSX mainline between Blauvelt and Newburgh. They found two non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts and drainage obstructed by debris.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Highland to Kingston – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 19 miles of track and six switches along the CSX mainline between Highland and Kingston. They found one critical defect – less than two bolts per rail end at a joint in continuously welded rail – which was repaired immediately. Inspectors found six non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts, fouled or insufficient ballast, a broken switch point side plate, less than two bolts per rail joint, and loose bolts on a switch transition device.
CSX Track Inspection – Selkirk – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately three miles of track and 10 switches at the CSX-owned Selkirk Rail Yard in Selkirk. They found five non-critical defects, including loose bolts on a switch transition device, an excessively worn switch point, an excessively worn raised guard and loose switch rod bolts.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Selkirk to Schodack Center – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately 11 miles of track and three switches along the CSX mainline between Selkirk and Schodack Center. No defects were found.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Selkirk to Port of Albany – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately eight miles of track and four switches along the CSX mainline between Selkirk and the Port of Albany. No defects were found.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Selkirk to Rotterdam – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately 16 miles of track and five switches along the CSX mainline between Selkirk and Rotterdam. They found six non-critical defects, including missing switch fasteners and missing guard rail bolt clips.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Rochester to Chili – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 26 miles of track and 10 switches along the CSX mainline between Rochester and Chili. They found five non-critical defects, including loose end blocks on guard rails, broken plates at switch transition devices, and loose guard rail bolts.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Savanah to Lyons – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately five miles of track and 15 switches along the CSX mainline between Savanah and Lyons. They found two critical defects, excessively worn tread portions of switch transition devices. A temporary speed restriction was imposed until the end of the day when repairs were completed. Inspectors also found 10 non-critical defects, including missing bolts on a switch transition device, missing guard rail clamps, fasteners and rail anchors, loose switch rod bolts and adjustable braces, broken tie plates and excessively worn switch points.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Chili to Alden – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 44 miles of track and 24 switches along the CSX mainline between Chili and Alden. They found six non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts, adjustable braces and bolts on a switch transition device.
CP Mainline Track Inspection – Mechanicville to Albany – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 19 miles of track and eight switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Mechanicville and Albany. They found one critical defect – less than two bolts per rail end at a joint in continuously welded rail – that was repaired immediately. Inspectors found two non-critical defects, including loose adjustable braces and loose separator blocks at a 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.
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