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 reduce potential dangers associated with the transport of crude oil across New York State. Inspection teams examined 15 crude oil tank cars, approximately 97 miles of track and 77 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed six critical defects and 36 non-critical defects.
“Protecting public safety remains our top priority and we will continue conducting inspections to detect unsafe rail tracks and tank cars, and have them repaired before they cause a problem,” Governor Cuomo said. “We must hold rail companies to the highest possible safety standard to protect communities and ensure oil is transported safely throughout this state.”
An inspection team from the New York State Department of Transportation carried out crude oil tanker inspections at the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad-owned Tift Street Rail Yard in Buffalo, Erie County; no additional crude oil tank cars were available for inspection at other rail yards across the state. Inspectors also examined CSX mainline track between Milton (Ulster County) and Kingston (Ulster County); between Selkirk (Albany) and Rotterdam (Schenectady County); between Syracuse (Onondaga County) and Canastota (Madison County); and between Buffalo and Niagara Falls (Niagara County). Inspectors also evaluated track at the CSX-owned Selkirk Rail Yard. Canadian Pacific-owned mainline track was examined between Whitehall (Washington County) and Fort Edward (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, “These inspections continue to make New York State safer by identifying and repairing potentially dangerous defects. We look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners on behalf of Governor Cuomo to maintain safety on our rail network.”
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 13,135 rail cars, including 11,127 crude oil tank cars, and 5,184 miles of track, uncovered 1,778 defects, and issued 24 hazardous materials violations.
Tank Car Inspection Results
- Buffalo – At the Tift Street Rail Yard in Buffalo, hazardous materials inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 15 crude oil tank cars. They found one critical defect – having loose secondary closures on liquid and vapor line – which resulted in a hazardous materials violation being assessed to the shipper. The observed defect was immediately corrected. One non-critical defect was also identified, a loose top platform on a tank car.
Track Inspection Results
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Milton to Kingston – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 21 miles of track and three switches along the CSX mainline between Milton and Kingston. They found two critical defects, including deviation from zero cross-level on a tangent track and a less than allowable guard check gage. A temporary speed limit was imposed pending repairs. Inspectors also found four non-critical defects, including ineffective fasteners, insufficient ballast, loose switch rod bolts and loose guard rail bolts.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Selkirk to Rotterdam – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 18 miles of track and six switches along the CSX mainline between Selkirk and Rotterdam. They found two non-critical defects, including loose bolts on a switch transition device and missing fasteners at a switch.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Syracuse to Canastota – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately one mile of track and 22 switches along the CSX mainline between Syracuse and Canastota. They found 13 non-critical defects, including loose and broken bolts on switch transition devices, missing cotter pins, loose guard rail bolts, insufficient fasteners on a segment of track, and a cracked guard rail.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Buffalo to Niagara – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 30 miles of track and 28 switches along the CSX mainline between Buffalo and Niagara. They found three critical defects, including a chipped point of switch transition device that required a temporary speed limit to be imposed pending replacement. They also found an object between a tie plate and base of rail and less than two bolts per rail at a conventional rail joint, both of which were immediately repaired. Inspectors found nine non-critical defects, including deteriorated crossties, missing adjustable rail braces, loose guard rail bolts and switch transition device bolts, an insecure switch stand, insufficient fasteners in a segment of track, and failure to place and maintain the required emergency notification sign at a private crossing.
- CP Mainline Track Inspection – Whitehall to Fort Edward – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 24 miles of track and nine switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Whitehall and Fort Edward. They found four non-critical defects, including insecure heels of switches, loose bolts on a switch transition device, and failure to place and maintain the required emergency notification sign at a private crossing.
- Selkirk Rail Yard Track Inspection – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately three miles of track and nine switches at the CSX-owned Selkirk Rail Yard. They found three non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts, an insecure heel of switch, and cross ties not effectively distributed.
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
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.