Local environmental group challenges oil train safety rules

Times Union | May 18, 2015 | Column by Brian Nearing

Riverkeeper wants safety measures put in place sooner

The Hudson River environmental group Riverkeeper is suing the U.S. Transportation Department over new oil train safety rules, claiming the changes are too weak by allowing older, less-sturdy tanker cars to run for years to come.

"These seriously flawed standards all but guarantee that there will be more explosive derailments, leaving people and the environment at grave risk," Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said on Monday. "The shortcomings are numerous, including an inadequate speed limit, unprotective tank car design, and a timeline that would allow these dangerous tank cars 10 more years on the rails."

Riverkeeper filed its lawsuit in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City on Friday, about a week after DOT unveiled its new rules.

The crude oil boom in the Bakken fields of North Dakota has made New York state a major hub for crude oil trains on the way to coastal refineries. Gallay said the Hudson River corridor and the New York/New Jersey metropolitan region now account for up to a quarter of all Bakken shipments.

The lawsuit also challenged DOT for imposing a new 40 mph speed limit on crude trains only in certain cities, including New York City and Buffalo. Albany was not included on that speed limit list and trains in the Capital Region are still permitted to travel up to 50 mph.

"DOT completely fails to recognize that we're in the middle of a crisis," said Gallay. "We don't need bureaucratic half measures that are years away from implementation, we need common-sense protections today."

He said the type of oil tanker cars that derailed and exploded this month in Heimdal, N.D., would be allowed to remain in use for up to eight more years under the new rules.

Last week, a coalition of environmental groups, including Earthjustice, ForestEthics, Sierra ClubWaterkeeper AllianceWashington Environmental Council, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Spokane Riverkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity, also sued DOT over the rules.

bnearing@timesunion.com

http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Local-environmental-group-challenges-oil-train-6271560.php

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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.