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 tank car and rail inspections intended to improve public safety and reduce potential dangers associated with the transport of crude oil across New York State. Inspection teams examined 215 crude oil tank cars, approximately 190 miles of track and 26 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed four critical defects and 16 non-critical defects.
“Public safety is our number one priority and these crude oil rail inspections are part of our ongoing efforts to reduce the risk of potentially fatal accidents,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will continue to work with our partners to enforce the toughest standards possible so that crude oil is transported safely throughout this state.”
Inspection teams from the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration carried out crude oil tanker inspections at the CSX Corporation-owned Selkirk Yard in Selkirk (Albany County) and at the Canadian Pacific-owned Kenwood Yard in Albany (Albany County).
The inspectors also examined CP mainline track between Willsboro (Essex County) and Whitehall (Washington County) and between Burnt Hills (Saratoga County) and Fort Edward (Washington County). They examined CSX mainline track between Lyons (Wayne County) and Warners (Onondaga County), between Rome (Oneida County) and Syracuse (Onondaga County) and between Cornwall (Orange County) and Haverstraw, (Rockland 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 all equipment is in line with regulations, including valves, valve closures, and placards that identify the cargo being shipped. They also checked tank car inspection and pressure test dates.
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, “These targeted crude oil tank car and rail track inspections initiated by Governor Cuomo are helping us protect public safety by ensuring that railroads maintain their infrastructure in a state of good repair. We will continue to work with our state and federal partners to protect the reliability of rail transport in New York and keep our communities safe.”
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 12,562 rail cars, including 10,554 crude oil tank cars, and 4,345 miles of track, uncovered 1,585 defects, and issued 20 hazardous materials violations.
Tank Car Inspection Results
Kenwood – At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 115 crude oil tank cars and found five non-critical defects, including mis-aligned brake shoes, shelled wheels and missing knuckle pins.
Selkirk - At the Selkirk Yard in Selkirk, hazardous material inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 100 crude oil tank cars and found one non-critical defect, a broken hazmat placard.
Track Inspection Results
Canadian Pacific Mainline Track Inspection – Willsboro to Whitehall – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 66 miles of track and four switches along the CP mainline between Willsboro and Whitehall. They found no defects.
Canadian Pacific Mainline Track Inspection – Burnt Hills to Fort Edward – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 35 miles of track and six switches along the CP mainline between Burnt Hills and Fort Edward and found three non-critical defects, including loose joint bars, loose guard rail and loose clip bolts on a switch rod.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Lyons to Warners – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 40 miles of track and 4 switches along the CSX mainline between Lyons and Warners and found four non-critical defects, including loose adjustable rail braces and loose switch rod bolts.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Rome to Syracuse – Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately 29 miles of track and nine switches along the CSX mainline between Rome and Syracuse. They found four critical defects, which were repaired immediately. These included having worn and broken tread portions of switch transition devices, and having less than two bolts per rail end at a joint in a continuously welded rail. They also found three non-critical defects, including loose switch rod bolts, loose guard rail bolts and loose bolts on a switch transition device.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Cornwall to Haverstraw – Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately 20 miles of track and three switches along the CSX mainline track between Cornwall and Haverstraw and found no defects.
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
- 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.