Schumer: New oil train safety rules won't protect Upstate New York

Syracuse Post-Standard | May 4, 2015 | Column by Mark Weiner

New federal rules intended to improve the safety of trains hauling crude oil amount to a "reckless gamble" that America can't afford, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., visited Syracuse's Armory Square on Monday, May 4, 2015,to discuss his legislation to improve the safety of oil trains that carry Bakken crude oil through Upstate New York. Schumer is shown in August 2013 during a previous visit to Armory Square to draw attention to the hundreds of rail cars that pass through Syracuse each day carrying crude oil. The senator was joined by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner as they called for old DOT-111 tanker cars to be phased out with two years because of safety flaws. (Office of Sen. Charles Schumer) (Office of Sen. Charles Schumer)

Schumer, speaking in Syracuse's Armory Square, stood a few feet from a railroad bridge where up to 300 tanker cars cross each day carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota to refineries along the East Coast.

Schumer, D-N.Y., said new oil train safety rules unveiled Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation are inadequate. Now he will take matters into his own hands by proposing legislation in Congress.

His bill would require older tanker cars (such as DOT-111 models) to be phased out within two years, rather than eight years as called for in the DOT regulations. The legislation also would impose broader speed limits on oil trains.

"Allowing these outdated oil cars to continue rolling through our communities for another eight years is a reckless gamble that we can't afford to make," Schumer said at a news conference with Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

The senator also had harsh words for the freight rail industry, which has criticized the DOT's new rules as too costly for the potential safety benefits.

"For far too long, the rail and oil industries have taken advantage of the lack of rules by making excuse after excuse to delay phasing-out the dangerous and outdated tanker cars," Schumer said. "While the DOT's announcement has finally forced the industry to update these rules, there is no question that the new rules don't go far enough."

Schumer said the oldest, least safe tanker cars should be replaced by those with thicker shells to avoid potentially devastating accidents like the one in Lac Mègantic, Quebec, in July 2013. A runaway oil train exploded in that accident, killing 47 people.

Schumer said it would be "careless and indefensible" to allow such tanker cars to remain in service for an additional five to eight years.

The DOT rules issued Friday set new speed restrictions in designated High Threat Urban Areas, which covers only New York City and Buffalo in the state.

Schumer said his legislation would broaden the definition and apply a lower speed limit to all DOT-111 tanker cars traveling through a county with a population density greater than 20 people per square mile.

The broader definition would include other Upstate cities, including Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

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http://www.syracuse.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/05/schumer_new_oil_train_safety_rules_wont_protect_upstate_new_york.html#incart_river

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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.