Feds, state team up on crude oil train spill studies

Times Union | May 23, 2014 | Column by Brian Nearing

State, federal regulators will study routes, cleanup plans


State and federal regulators this summer will evaluate 500 miles of railroad track statewide over which crude oil tank cars travel and will also craft specific oil spill cleanup plans based on population and environmental concerns, theU.S. Environmental Protection Agencysaid Friday.

The study by EPA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation will focus on three areas:

The north-south rail corridor of the Canadian Pacific Rail line, including the Northway and western edge of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the Canadian border, covering Clinton, Essex, Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties.

The east-west CSX line along the western shore of the Hudson River from Albany south to the metropolitan New York City area, covering Albany, Greene, Ulster, Orange and Rockland counties.

The rail corridor including the CSX line along the Mohawk River Valley, state barge canal and state Thruway.

Water Mugdan, director of the regional EPA emergency and remedial response division, disclosed the study plan in a May 14 letter to The Adirondack Council, an Elizabethtown-based advocacy group for the Adirondacks.

While EPA has no oversight of rail lines and crude oil transport, crude shipment routes will be "evaluated to prioritize the development of specific tactical response plans" against spills, Mugdan wrote. So-called "priority areas" will be based on "proximity of potential spill locations to population centers and environmentally sensitive areas, all of which will be mapped." This part of the project should be done by the end of the summer, he said.

This fall, DEC and EPA will share information with county and local officials to "ensure local information is taken into account." By the beginning of next year, the two agencies will develop county-level response plans throughout the state.

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said the rail study is part of an initiative announced in April with the state, EPA and U.S. Coast Guard. That announcement included plans to create "Geographic Response Plans ... to protect a specific environmental resource or potential human exposure" after a crude oil spill.

"We are pleased that the EPA responded to our concerns with a plan to assess the risks and protect clean water, communities and sensitive wildlife habitat," said Adirondack Council Deputy Director Diane Fish. "The Adirondack Park hosts 100 miles of railroad that is being used to ship crude oil to refineries far south of here."

In April, the council sent a letter to the EPA requesting assistance in protecting the Adirondacks from crude oil spills. In the last two years, the volume of crude oil shipments through the Adirondacks has risen sharply as oil companies transport North Dakota crude oil on the Canadian Pacific Rail Road.

CP Rail owns the former Delaware & Hudson line, which follows the shoreline of Lake Champlain along the eastern boundary of the Adirondack Park.

Attempts to contact CP Rail and CSX for comment were not successful.

[email protected] • 518-454-5094


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commented 2014-05-24 11:57:39 -0400 · Flag
I’m glad Mr. Nearing is reporting on this but there is no such thing as safe fossil fuel transport. The pretense of protecting our environment and ourselves from one of these explosions or spills ​is just that​ – a charade.

​With every effort to make fossil fuels safer we are undermining the investment of time and money needed to switch to renewables. Let us not delude ourselves while climate change marches on.
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.