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 108 crude oil tank cars, approximately 163 miles of track and 55 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed three critical defects and 33 non-critical defects.
"Inspections of rail tracks and crude oil tank cars are critical pieces in our efforts to protect the safety and well-being of those who live and work near them," Governor Cuomo said. "Our vigorous inspection schedule has enabled us to find and quickly address defects in the system and we will continue to follow it to ensure that New Yorkers are kept safe."
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 Rail Yard in Selkirk, Albany County. The inspectors also examined CSX mainline track between Milton (Ulster County) and Tappan (Rockland County); between Kingston (Ulster County) and Ravena (Albany County); at the Kingston Railroad Yard (Ulster County); and between Buffalo and Alden (both in Erie County). Canadian Pacific-owned mainline track was examined between Plattsburgh (Clinton County) and Crown Point (Essex County); and between Albany (Albany County) and Mechanicville (Saratoga 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, "In partnering with the federal government and the railroads 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 13,011 rail cars, including 11,003 crude oil tank cars, and 4,640 miles of track, uncovered 1,668 defects, and issued 20 hazardous materials violations.
Tank Car Inspection Results
- Selkirk – At the Selkirk Rail Yard in Selkirk, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 108 crude oil tank cars and found no defects.
Track Inspection Results
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Milton to Tappan – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 51 miles of track and eight switches along the CSX mainline between Milton and Tappan. They found one critical defect – having a less than allowable guard rail check gauge – which required a temporary speed reduction. They also found five non-critical defects, including loose switch rod bolts, guard rail bolts and switch transition device bolts; fouled ballast; and a missing adjustable rail brace at a switch.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Kingston to Ravena – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 30 miles of track and two switches along the CSX mainline between Kingston and Ravena, as well as one mile of track at the Kingston Railroad Yard. They found eight non-critical defects, including loose switch rod bolts, switch rods, and guard rail bolts; missing cotter pins; fouled ballast; and switch position indicators that were not clearly visible.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection –Buffalo to Alden – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 19 miles of track and 31 switches along the CSX mainline between Buffalo and Alden. They found 10 non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts, switch transition device bolts, adjustable rail braces and switch rod bolts; an insecure heel of switch; and missing cotter pins.
- CP Mainline Track Inspection – Plattsburgh to Crown Point – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 42 miles of track and seven switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Plattsburgh and Crown Point. They found one critical defect – a missing bolt at a rail joint – which was repaired. They also found five non-critical defects, including missing rail anchors, an incorrectly installed joint bar and loose rail joints, adjustable braces at a switch and guard separator blocks at a switch.
- CP Mainline Track Inspection – Albany to Mechanicville – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 20 miles of track and seven switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Albany and Mechanicville. They found one critical defect – an insufficient number of support ties at a rail joint – which was repaired the next day. They also found five non-critical defects, including fouled ballast, missing cotter pins and loose guard rail bolts, bolts on a switch transition device and adjustable rail brace 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;
- 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.