Drop in crude prices cuts number of oil trains

Times Union | April 7, 2015 | Report by Eric Anderson

Crude oil train traffic in March was down 7 percent from year-earlier levels, The Wall Street Journal reported this morning, as lower oil prices squeeze margins and make it less expensive to import crude from overseas.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, which hands off oil trains to CSX for their trip to the Port of Albany and other East Coast destinations, said it’s averaging about nine trains a day currently, compared to as many as 10 a day last year, according to the report.

The Port of Albany has become a major transshipment point for the Bakken crude from North Dakota’s shale oil fields, with both Canadian Pacific Railway and CSX Transportation delivering oil trains to the Capital Region.

The decline in train traffic comes as the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday called for tougher standards for oil tanker cars. The newer CPC-1232 design, which was thought to be safer than the DOT-111 tankers, has failed in several recent derailments. With Bakken more explosive than traditional crude, the derailments have led to explosions and fires.

In the worst of those derailments, 47 people died in July 2013 when a runaway oil train derailed and exploded in the center of Lac Megantic, Quebec.

“We can’t wait a decade for safer rail cars,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said. “Crude oil rail traffic is increasing exponentially. That is why this issue is on our Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements. The industry needs to make this issue a priority and expedite the safety enhancements, otherwise, we continue to put our communities at risk.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who’s advocated for stronger rail cars, backed the NTSB stand.

“NTSB’s recommendations for improving tank car safety are right on the money. The NTSB is our nation’s premier, independent safety agency and when they make recommendations for how to make crude oil transport by rail safer, everyone should listen,” Schumer said. “With NTSB adding their voice to the chorus of those of us who have long been calling for new safety rules, it just proves that this train has left the station and it’s long past time for DOT and OMB to get on board by issuing a tough new tank car standard immediately.”

The NTSB recommendations are here.


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commented 2015-04-07 16:24:51 -0400 · Flag
The government always does too little too late. ‘Safer’ crude by rail doesn’t apply when talking about a substance this volatile. Besides, with climate change breathing down our necks and with renewables at the ready, it’s just plain stupid to pursue any type of extreme energy extraction.
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Drop in crude prices cuts number of oil trains
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.