CSX asks to keep oil train data from public

The Journal News | June 26, 2014 | Column by Brian Tumulty

WASHINGTON – New York officials are reviewing a request by CSX to not publicly disclose movements of its freight trains carrying crude oil across the state.

The state began receiving weekly information about the shipments earlier this month under an emergency order signed in May by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The routing information is being shared with "appropriate state public safety officials," according to the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

And state officials "will coordinate all relevant rail shipment information with the local first responders in the counties where the shipments pass through," agency spokesman Peter Cutler said in an email.

Cutler did not indicate when that coordination with local first responders might begin.

There have been 16 significant freight rail accidents in the U.S. and Canada since 2006, including one last July that killed 47 people.

Crude oil and ethanol fires caused by derailed freight trains are left to burn out on their own because first responders can't extinguish them, fire safety officials told the National Transportation Safety Board at an April forum. Many suburban and rural community fire departments don't have enough training or manpower to handle railroad tanker fires, the International Association of Fire Chiefs said at the NTSB forum.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who lobbied for getting the information to local first responders, declined comment Thursdayon whether the timing and routes of the crude oil train shipments should be made public.

"The bottom line is that local first responders need real-time data from rail companies to protect property and save lives," Schumer said in a statement. "I believe this can be done in a common-sense way without compromising safety and security."

Schumer announced Thursday he is a co-sponsoring legislation authored by Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to form a panel to address freight derailments involving hazardous materials and crude oil tankers.

The proposed FEMA committee would bring together emergency responders, federal agencies and others to address training issues and best practices for responding to derailments.

Freight trains carrying 100 or more tanker cars of crude oil regularly run through Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica to terminals in the Albany area. The oil arriving in Albany is either moving through the Port of Albany for shipment by barge and tanker, or on the CSX river line on the western shore of the Hudson River south to New Jersey.

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services declined comment on whether the Canadian Pacific has disclosed if it is shipping crude oil on its eastern New York line that begins at Rouses Point and continues south through Plattsburg along Lake Champlain to Saratoga and Albany.

An estimated 434,000 tanker loads of crude oil were shipped by rail in the United States last year, compared to only 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Much of that oil was carried from the Bakken Formation oil field in North Dakota and Montana to refineries on the East, West and Gulf coasts. Oil production in the Bakken field reached 1 million barrels a day in December and is forecast to peak at 2 million barrels a day in seven years, according to CSX.

Brian Tumulty: [email protected]; Twitter: @NYinDC.


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commented 2014-06-28 10:54:41 -0400 · Flag
Of course CP is shipping Bakken crude from Montreal down to Albany by way of Plattsburgh, Lake Champlain, and many other vulnerable localities. The NYS DHS must think we’re really stupid not to be able to see the 1267 markers on the side of the rail cars that denote a flamable, toxic, and explosive harzard. Let’s stop playing this game of hide and seek so we can devote our time/money to switching to renewable sources of energy before we pass the climate change tipping point.
@PAUSEnergy tweeted this page. 2014-06-27 23:35:16 -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.