New York Fines Canadian Pacific For Derailment

WAMC | May 13, 2014 | Column by Pat Bradley

The New York State Department of Transportation will fine Canadian Pacific for a five-hour delay in reporting the derailment of four tank cars carrying crude oil in Albany Monday. It’s the latest flashpoint in what has become a pointed debate over oil transport.

Credit Tipiac-Alain Caraco/Wikimedia Commons

State transportation officials say that a train carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota derailed around 4:30 Monday morning at Canadian Pacific's Kenwood rail yard in Albany. Four tank cars derailed from a train with 31 tank cars and one locomotive. There were no injuries, and no oil was spilled. According to a state DOT press release, inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration and the state believe the derailment may have been caused by a broken switch point, a narrow piece of rail that enables a train to move from one track to another.
CP Rail spokesman Ed Greenberg explains that at the time of the incident, four cars were being slowly moved within the yard.  “The cars were basically situated where their wheels slipped off the tracks. All safety precautions were taken at the time of the incident to insure priority response and CP crews were able to re-rail the cars a few hours later.”

State law requires that rail accidents involving freight trains carrying hazardous materials must be reported to the DOT within one hour. But this incident was not reported until 9:16 a.m., almost five hours later. Greenberg acknowledges there was a delay in reporting to New York officials.  “Our railroad does acknowledge that there was a disconnect in the process pertaining to New York State Department of Transportation reporting. Our officials did report to the Federal Railroad Administration. We quickly identified that misstep and we’ve already addressed it internally. We were quite concerned that there was a misstep in following the process regarding New York State DOT.”

The rail company faces a fine of $5,000 for the delay in reporting, the maximum the state can impose.  People of Albany United for Safe Energy - or PAUSE - member Sandy Steubing calls the amount meaningless.  “They were fined the maximum of $5,000 which these companies, they could sneeze at and just consider a part of doing business.”

The federal government says nine oil train derailments have occurred in the U.S. and Canada since March of last year.

Meanwhile Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has expressed concerns about the stability of the oil the trains are hauling in recent past interviews.  “The tar oil that comes down from Canada is pretty stable until you go to heat it up. And then you’ve got the light oil that comes out from Dakota which is very explosive on the tracks. The health and safety of our residents come first.”

McCoy reportedly told local media late Tuesday that he will propose legislation to fine companies that don’t report incidents in a timely manner $1,000 and a year in jail.

PAUSE’s Sandy Steubing knows minor derailments are common. But she considers Monday’s a warning sign.  “These derailments happen all the time, all over the United States. It shows us that we cannot transport fossil fuels safely. These trains that are delivering the Bakken crude need to be off the rails.”

A comprehensive crude oil transportation safety report was released by Governor Cuomo two weeks ago. It includes a recommendation to raise the fine for late incident reporting to $25,000.

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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.