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 341 crude oil tank cars, approximately 132 miles of track and 69 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed five critical defects and 42 non-critical defects.
"We will continue working with our federal partners to identify and correct deficiencies in rail tracks and tank cars across New York," Governor Cuomo said. "This round of inspections proves that our system is working to improve rail safety and that continued vigilance is necessary in order to ensure the highest level of public safety."
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 Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo and at the Canadian Pacific-owned Kenwood Yard in Albany. The inspectors also examined CSX mainline track between Batavia (Genesee County) and Depew (Erie County); between Ripley (Chautauqua County) and Blasdell (Erie County); in Syracuse (Onondaga County); between Fonda (Montgomery County) and Rotterdam (Schenectady County); and in Orangeburg (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, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for continuing to make rail safety a top priority in New York State. The efforts we have made during the past two years have helped bring about stronger federal protections and have made New York State a leader in rail safety."
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 12,903 rail cars, including 10,895 crude oil tank cars, and 4,477 miles of track, uncovered 1,632 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 119 crude oil tank cars and found eight non-critical defects, including thin brake shoes, shelled wheels, a thin wheel flange and a high wheel flange.
- Frontier – At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, rail equipment and hazardous materials inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 222 crude oil tank cars and no defects were identified.
Track Inspection Results
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Batavia to Depew – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 40 miles of track and four switches along the CSX mainline between Batavia and Depew. They found no defects.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Ripley to Blasdell – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 62 miles of track and 37 switches along the CSX mainline between Ripley and Blasdell. They found eight non-critical defects, including fouled ballast and loose adjustable rail braces, switch point stops, switch rod bolts, guard rail bolts and bolts at switch transition devices.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection –Syracuse – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately one mile of track and 17 switches along the CSX mainline in Syracuse. They found two critical defects, which were repaired. These included having a less than allowable guard check gauge and broken base of rail. They also found 19 non-critical defects, including insufficient fasteners, missing adjustable rail braces, and loose joint bars, guard rail bolts and switch rod bolts.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Fonda to Rotterdam – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 28 miles of track and nine switches along the CSX mainline track between Fonda and Rotterdam. They found three critical defects, which were repaired. These included having less than two bolts per rail end at a joint and a rail end mismatch at a joint. They also found two non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Orangeburg – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately one mile of track and two switches along the CSX mainline track in Orangeburg. They found five non-critical defects, including loose switch rod bolts, loose guard rail bolts and missing cotter pins at 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;
- 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.