New York state will make additional efforts to protect residents from potential disasters involving the transport of crude oil.
These efforts include a second targeted round of rail inspections designed to enforce freight rail safety regulations, as well as urging changes to federal spill response plans to better reflect and properly address threats posed by the increasing transport of crude oil throughout the state.
“The state is continuing proactive inspections to protect New Yorkers and prevent crude oil accidents,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Our preparedness and response plans must be adequate ahead of time, not after tragedy strikes. We have seen too many crude oil disasters and with continued comprehensive safety and emergency response reviews and efforts to improve federal policies and regulation, we can help ensure that New York is doing everything possible to prevent mishaps and keep crude oil transport safe.”
Following several severe accidents across the U.S. and Canada, Gov. Cuomo issued an Executive Order on January 28 that directed several state agencies to conduct a top-to-bottom review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to rail, ship and barge shipments of crude oil. The governor asked agencies to work with federal partners to enhance preparedness and oversight and increase inspections, out of growing concern regarding the volatility of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.
This week, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) completed a second series of targeted inspections at rail yards in the Capital Region and Western New York. Inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also participated in the inspection blitz. Inspectors performed a mechanical inspection of brakes and other safety equipment, including tanker cars that carry crude oil, as well as rails, ties and other equipment. They also performed a hazardous materials inspection to ensure equipment is in line with regulations, including valves, valve closures and placards and decals that describe the cargo being shipped, as well as checking dates for the last tank inspection and pressure test. NYSDOT’s first inspections were completed in late February and found numerous issues, including defective equipment, broken rails and non-compliant tank cars.
The inspections were conducted at the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, the West Albany Yard in Colonie, the Selkirk Rail Yard in southern Albany County, the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo and the Niagara Rail Yard in Niagara Falls.
At the Kenwood Yard, inspectors examined 120 DOT-111 tank cars for mechanical defects and found one defective brake shoe and 15 wheels with “shell type” wheel defects. Although these wheel conditions are not known to have contributed to derailments, the cars were taken out of service until the wheels can be repaired. The inspectors also inspected 64 tank cars for hazardous materials faults and discovered three minor defects.
At the West Albany Yard, inspectors examined two miles of CSX-owned track and found seven non-critical defects, such as loose rail joints or loose or missing fasteners and must be repaired and re-inspected within 30 days. Inspectors also looked over two miles of Transflo Industrial tracks and found a broken rail, which was taken out of service. Twelve other non-critical defects were also found.
At the Selkirk Rail Yard, inspectors examined one mile of track and found 20 non-critical defects.
At the Frontier Rail Yard, inspectors examined 102 DOT-111 tank cars for mechanical defects and found seven defects, including a brake shoe that was worn down to metal on a rail car that was presented as ready for departure. Inspectors for the FRA issued a violation for partial failure to perform a 1000-mile brake test. Inspectors also examined 58 DOT-111 tank cars at the Frontier Yard for hazardous materials defects and found three defects for improper placards. FRA inspectors also issued one violation to a shipper, DPTS Marketing, LLC of Newtown, North Dakota, for a loose air induction line. Inspectors boarded six trains (three carrying crude oil and three carrying ethanol) to check hazardous materials shipping paperwork and did not find any issues.
At the Niagara Yard, inspectors examined 111 cars, including 91 mixed freight cars and 20 DOT-111 tank cars and found 12 minor defects. Inspectors also looked over four miles of track and discovered two switch point defects, which were immediately repaired by CSX. Inspectors also found 33 other non-critical defects.
Gov. Cuomo said the purpose of these plans is to provide a mechanism to plan for potential complications given overlapping jurisdictions and potentially divergent interests of the parties involved.