Lawmakers Call for Increased Safety Measures in Crude Oil Transportation

TWC News | June 14, 2014 | Column by Madeleine Rivera

Millions of gallons of crude oil are transported through the Capital Region everyday, some within feet of neighborhoods. After some serious accidents across the country, the Governor proposed increased safety measures for crude oil transportation. But, lawmakers are saying this isn't enough, and a few issued their owns bills addressing the dangers. Time Warner Cable News reporter Madeleine Rivera has the story.

CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. -- Mile long trains pass through the Capital Region everyday. And while they travel at a slow speed, many say they pose an emergency risk.

"My mother had a stroke, and emergency crews were not able to get through to get her to the hospital," said Laura Harbour-Kahl, a Menands resident

Blocking railroad crossings isn't the only danger trains pose to the public. These trains carry highly volatile crude oil as they make their journey to the Port of Albany.

"This is not what was going through the rails when I bought the house twelve years ago. This is not what I signed up for," said Nancy Ceslar, who lives several feet from the tracks.

On Saturday, Assembly Members Phil Steck, Patricia Fahy, and John McDonald announced several pieces of legislation to address some of the risks. They want to raise fines for railroad companies blocking crossings for more than five minutes. That's the time limit set by the state.

"Five thousand dollars for the first offense, $25,000 for the second, and $75,000 for the third all to be borne by the railroad company," said Steck.

Another bill would create a right to sue on behalf of anyone harmed by trains blocking the crossings. Ceslar calls it a step in the right direction.

"If there's an accident, people who are harmed are covered for their losses," she said.

As the bill makes its way through the legislature, Menands mayor Megan Grenier says her emergency personnel are working on ways to alleviate some of the dangers.

"We are looking at cameras that would be on Menands Road and Brookside so when a call comes in, they can just look up and see if a train is coming," said Grenier.

Legislators are also calling for an increase to the oil spill fund, money used to clean oil spills and relocate residents. These bills are in addition to the measures that Governor proposed, including the phase out of outdated trains.

"Businesses should not have the ability to put the public's safety in danger," said Harbour-Kahl.

Because, resident say, no life is worth less than a train passing through.

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@PAUSEnergy tweeted this page. 2014-06-16 21:54:00 -0400
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.