Cuomo seeking rail safety improvements

WRGB | April 30, 2014 | Staff Report

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday demanding improvements to rail safety. Several hours later, Global Partners, which has a terminal in Albany, announced it would stop accepting DOT-111 train cars that don’t meet new Canadian safety standards.

Cuomo’s letter came after five state agencies collaborated to create a report detailing the shortfalls in rail safety. It listed 11 federal and international recommendations. The state has begun taking action on 11 other recommendations made by the agencies.

“There should be a level of concern about these [DOT-111] tank cars. They’re simply inadequate. They were designed to carry molasses. They are thin shelled, steel shelled tank cars when they rupture or when they’re heated, they explode,” said Basil Seggos, Deputy Secretary for the Environment.

The state points to five recent incidents where trains carrying crude oil have derailed and caught fire. The most recent occurred an hour after Cuomo sent the letter in Virginia. Among the recommendations is a ban on DOT-111 cars.

Trains from North Dakota and Canada come together in Albany and turn south toward refineries. Recently, many activists have called on the state, county and city to ban crude oil shipments and stop expansion of the Port of Albany.

The state said Cuomo sent the letter to the federal government because rail safety and regulation must be made at a national level. Meanwhile, the state is working to provide resources and training on proper response to crude oil derailments.

“Right now it's a game of chance. New York State simply can't wait for the next incident to take action. That's why we put the report out and we demand the federal government approach this with a seriousness that we are,” said Seggos.

Global Partners, which is working on expanding crude oil processing in the South End, said starting on June 1 it will only accept rail cars compliant with newly announced, stricter Canadian regulations.

The letter from Cuomo recommending stricter American regulations comes after years of protests over crude oil shipments at the Port of Albany. Earlier this year, Albany County placed a moratorium on expanding crude oil rail transport operation citing safety concerns.

“We didn't know what to anticipate, whether it was a secret report for a while or how transparent he [Cuomo] was going to be,” said Sandy Steubing with People of Albany United for Safe Energy. “I’m very pleased he responded so soon with the fact he wants those cars taken off the rails now.”

To view the Letter from Gov. Cuomo, click here.

To view the report on rail safety, click here.

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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.