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Cuomo announces oil train inspections

Mar 18, 2015 12:03 am
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced another round of targeted crude oil tank car and rail inspections March 17. These inspections found 93 defects, including seven critical safety problems that required immediate corrective action, and two hazardous materials violations. Cuomo's inspections are a response to a series of oil train accidents around the U.S. and Canada, as shipments of crude oil have increased in recent years. “Our administration is continuing to hold crude oil transporters to the highest standard of safety, and this latest round of inspections shows that our efforts are making a significant difference when it comes to protecting New Yorkers,” Cuomo said, in a statement. “The importance of these inspections is underscored both by the recent rash of derailments and explosions involving crude oil trains in other states, as well as the current lack of tough regulations, which only Washington has the authority to impose. In the meantime, we will continue to remain vigilant and work with all partners to make sure that crude oil is transported safely across the state.” Locally, oil trains run daily on the west side of the Hudson River, with many sitting at a yard in Albany between I-787 and the river.

Read the rest of the press release below, at newsroom.wgxc.org.

On Wednesday, March 11, and Thursday, March 12, inspection teams from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) carried out track and crude oil tanker inspections at the CSX Corporation-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, and the Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway-owned Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany. In addition, the inspectors examined mainline track along the following sections:
- Newburgh in Dutchess County to Haverstraw in Rockland County;
- Macedon to Lyons in Wayne County;
- Ripley to Dunkirk in Chautauqua County;
- Fort Edward in Washington County to Burnt Hills in Saratoga County; and
- Track at both the Kenwood and Frontier Rail Yards.

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 equipment is in line with regulations, including valves, valve closures, and placards that describe the cargo being shipped. They also checked tank car inspection and pressure test dates.

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, while all tank car defects must be fixed before the train departs the yard. If that is not possible, the affected car will be pulled from the train to await repair.

NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said, “Once again, our inspectors found numerous track and rail car maintenance issues that were quickly addressed. I’m proud to work with Governor Cuomo and the Federal Rail Administration to increase public safety with respect to transporting hazardous materials through New York State.”

Track Inspections

CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Newburgh to Haverstraw
NYSDOT and FRA track inspectors examined approximately 22 miles of track and two switches along the CSX mainline from Newburgh to Haverstraw. The inspectors found one critical defect – deteriorated cross ties along a short section of track – which has since been repaired. The inspectors also found four non-critical defects, including loose switch bolts and insufficient ballast.

CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Macedon to Lyons
An FRA track inspector examined 22 miles of track between Macedon and Lyons. The inspector found two critical defects: improper clearance at a switch transition device, and another switch transition device was chipped in excess of allowable limits. Both have been repaired. The inspector also found seven non-critical safety defects, including loose switch bolts, missing and loose bolts at a switch transition device, and loose switch clip bolts.

CSX Siding Track Inspection – Syracuse & Oneida
A NYSDOT track inspector examined approximately five miles of track and five switches on CSX controlled rail sidings in Syracuse and Oneida. The inspector discovered five non-critical defects, including loose joint bars, loose joints on a switch component, missing cotter pins, and loose bolts on a switch transition device.

CSX Frontier Yard Mainline & Yard Track Inspection – Buffalo
An FRA track inspector examined two miles of mainline track and four miles of yard track, including 21 switches, at the Frontier Yard in Buffalo. One critical defect was found, a switch transition device in the yard was found to be chipped in excess of allowable limits, resulting in the speed limit being lowered from 15 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour. The inspection also found 17 non-critical defects, including loose switch bolts, loose joint bars, loose switch point heel blocks and missing cotter pins in switch bolts.

CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Ripley to Dunkirk
A NYSDOT track inspector examined 58 miles of track and 11 switches between Ripley and Dunkirk. The inspector found five non-critical defects including fouled ballast, insufficient fasteners, and loose bolts at a switch transition device.

CP Mainline Track Inspection – Fort Edward to Burnt Hills
An FRA track inspector examined 35 miles of track and five switches between Fort Edward and Burnt Hills. The inspector found three critical defects – missing bolts in rail joints – which were immediately repaired by a CP crew. Eleven non-critical defects were also found, including loose and missing switch bolts, and fouled ballast.

CP Kenwood Yard Track and Switch Inspection – Albany
A NYSDOT track inspector examined one mile of yard track and 26 switches at CP’s Kenwood Yard in Albany. The inspector discovered 10 non-critical defects, including loose and missing bolts on switch components and missing cotter pins on switch bolts.

Tank Car Inspections

At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, rail equipment inspectors examined 200 crude oil tank cars and found 24 non-critical defects, including thin brake shoes, shelled wheels, and a missing knuckle pin. An FRA hazardous materials inspector examined 120 crude oil tank cars and issued two violations to the oil shipping company Global Partners, for a missing sample line plug and for failing to apply a vapor line cap lock. These violations required immediate corrective action before the train was allowed out of the yard, and the FRA may fine the shipping company. The inspector also found two non-critical defects, including loose packing nuts.

At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, 109 tank cars were examined by a NYSDOT rail equipment inspector, who found three non-critical defects including thin brake shoes and a missing brake shoe retainer key. In addition, NYSDOT and FRA hazardous materials inspectors examined 24 crude oil tank cars and found one non-critical defect, which was a loose safety railing.​

Since this targeted inspection campaign began in February 2014, NYSDOT and its federal partners have inspected 8,504 rail cars (including 6,496 crude oil tank cars) and 2,988 miles of track, uncovered 1,048 defects, and issued 18 hazardous materials violations.

Increased inspections of railroad tracks and tank cars are one of the aggressive actions New York State has taken following a series of out-of-state disasters involving the transport of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields centered in North Dakota.

Last year, at the direction of Governor Cuomo, state agencies conducted a coordinated review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to increased shipments of Bakken crude across nearly 1,000 miles of New York State. The agencies issued a report in April 2014 containing 27 recommendations for state government, federal government and industry to take to reduce risks and increase public safety in the transport of crude oil.

To date, state agencies are working to implement all 12 state government recommendations and have completed five. Specifically, New York State has taken 66 actions to better prepare state and local responders in the event of a crude oil incident as detailed in a progress report released earlier last December.

In his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Governor Cuomo detailed proposals to protect New York from the boom in crude oil transportation including to:
- Hire eight new employees for DEC and six for the Office of Fire Protection and Control dedicated to oil spill planning, training and response;
- Increase the fees for oil transported through New York to 13.75 cents per barrel. This is an increase 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;

- Increase the Oil Spill Response and Prevention Fund by 60 percent, from $25 million to $40 million to ensure the solvency of the fund and provide the necessary funding for staff and associated preparedness costs;

- Move administration of the Oil Spill Fund from the Comptroller’s Office to DEC. This will create efficiencies in the operation of the fund and ensure more money goes to cleaning up spills as well as planning and preparedness operations;

- Establish the New York State Foam Task Force. The State will pre-deploy foam, firefighting equipment, and supplies along rail lines statewide. The State will provide standardized training and support to local agencies to deploy and operate the equipment necessary to fight flammable liquid fires. The State will also continue to increase its own foam capabilities to better supplement and support local resources at any major crude oil incident; and

- Coordinate State, local and industry planning and preparedness. The State’s inter-agency working group will further integrate response planning at the local, county, state and federal levels, and improve coordination of the railroads and terminal operators involved in the shipment of crude oil across New York.
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