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 109 crude oil tank cars, approximately 196 miles of track and 72 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed three critical defects and 41 non-critical defects.
“Protecting public safety is our number one priority and by finding and repairing defects in crude oil tanks and on railroad tracks, we are working to avoid risk and prevent accidents,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will continue to hold crude oil transport to the strictest possible standard to ensure a safer rail system for all in New York.”
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, Erie County. The inspectors also examined CSX mainline track between Selkirk (Albany County) and Schenectady; between Rome and Oneida (both in Oneida County); between Hamburg and Cheektowaga (both in Erie County); and between Blasdell (Erie County) and Ripley (Chautauqua County). Inspectors also evaluated a CSX-owned switch in Haverstraw (Rockland County). Canadian Pacific-owned mainline track was examined between Albany and Clifton Park (Saratoga County); and between Willsboro (Essex County) and Whitehall (Washington 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 been a national leader in improving rail safety and keeping New York safe. We look forward to continuing to partner with the federal government to maintain safety and reduce the risk of transporting volatile crude oil through New York State.
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 13,120 rail cars, including 11,112 crude oil tank cars, and 5,087 miles of track, uncovered 1,736 defects, and issued 23 hazardous materials violations.
Tank Car Inspection Results
Buffalo – At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 109 crude oil tank cars. They found one critical defect – having a high wheel flange on a railcar – which was immediately corrected. They also found 20 non-critical defects, including broken knuckle pins, bent uncoupling levers, worn brake shoes, improper spacing of a locomotive switching step, a loose auxiliary light bulb, and a contaminated air dryer indicator.
The crude oil tank cars also were inspected by Department of Transportation hazardous materials inspectors. They found three non-critical defects, including damaged hazmat placards, missing hazmat placard holder and a vapor line valve in the open position.
Track Inspection Results
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Selkirk to Albany – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 14 miles of track and four switches along the CSX mainline between Selkirk and Albany. They found one non-critical defect, insufficient fastener in a segment of track.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Rome to Oneida – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately two miles of track and 15 switches along the CSX mainline between Rome and Oneida. They found one critical defect – a chipped tread portion of a switch transition device – that was repaired immediately. They also found five non-critical defects, including loose switch rod bolts and loose bolts at a switch transition device.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Hamburg to Cheektowaga – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately 25 miles of track and four switches along the CSX mainline between Hamburg and Cheektowaga. They found one critical defect – less than two bolts per rail end at a joint in a continuously welded rail – which was repaired immediately. They also found two non-critical defects, including a missing guard rail component and failure to comply with written procedures.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Blasdell and Ripley – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 63 miles of track and 36 switches along the CSX mainline between Blasdell and Ripley. They found six non-critical defects, including fouled ballast, insufficient fasteners in a segment of track, loose switch rod bolts, loose bolts at a switch transition device and a loose guard rail bolt.
CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Haverstraw – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined one switch along the CSX mainline in Haverstraw. No defects were found.
CP Mainline Track Inspection – Albany to Clifton Park – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 29 miles of track and seven switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Albany and Clifton Park. They found three non-critical defects, including an insecure heel of switch and vegetation obstructions.
CP Mainline Track Inspection – Willsboro to Whitehall – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 63 miles of track and five switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Willsboro and Whitehall. They found one non-critical defect, loose bolts on a switch transition device.
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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