New York inspectors find defects on oil rail lines

Times Union | March 17, 2015 | Column by Eric Anderson

More than 90 problems uncovered on tracks and tank cars in statewide review


Rail inspectors looking at oil tank cars and the tracks that carry them found more than 90 defects during two days of inspections statewide last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office said Tuesday. Seven were deemed "critical," requiring immediate action, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Three of those critical defects — missing bolts in rail joints — were along Canadian Pacific's mainline between Fort Edward and Burnt Hills, where inspectors also found 11 non-critical defects.

Critical defects, while requiring immediate attention, "don't necessarily indicate safety lapses," according to the governor's office.

State and federal officials have stepped up oversight of tracks and trains in the wake of several derailments in which oil trains exploded and burned. Four accidents have occurred in the past month alone in the United States and Canada. Those involved cars built to more rigorous safety standards which, in several instances, nevertheless ruptured and exploded.

The Port of Albany has become a major transshipment point for North Dakota's Bakken crude, which has proven to be more volatile than other crude.

The three critical defects involving missing bolts in rail joints were immediately repaired by a Canadian Pacific crew, according to the DOT.

At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, inspectors found 24 non-critical defects among the 200 tank cars they inspected. Two violations were issued to shipping company Global Partners after a Federal Railroad Administration hazardous materials inspector looked at 120 tank cars. The violations must be fixed before the rail cars can leave the yard.

Inspections took place on the following:

22 miles of CSX track between Newburgh and Haverstraw, where one critical and four non-critical defects were found

22 miles of CSX track between Macedon and Lyons — two critical and seven non-critical defects

5 miles of siding and five switches in Syracuse and Oneida — five non-critical defects

Tracks at the CSX Frontier Yard in Buffalo — one critical and 17 non-critical defects

58 miles of CSX track between Ripley and Dunkirk, including 11 switches — five non-critical defects

Tracks and switches in CP's Kenwood yard in Albany — 10 non-critical defects

Tank cars at CSX's Frontier Yards also were inspected, with a total of four non-critical defects uncovered in 109 tank cars.

"The importance of these inspections is underscored both by the recent rash of derailments and explosions involving crude oil trains in other states, as well as the current lack of tough regulations, which only Washington has the authority to impose," Cuomo said. "In the meantime, we will continue to remain vigilant and work with all partners to make sure that crude oil is transported safely across the state."

Assemblyman Phil Steck, who has called for removing volatile gases before Bakken crude is even shipped, said the inspection results "further underscore the need for improved safety measures that could prevent catastrophic disasters before they occur, not simply assure adequate funds for post-disaster cleanup."

His Capital Region district includes rail lines used by oil trains heading to the Port of Albany.

The worst oil train disaster involving Bakken crude occurred in July 2013, when a runaway train derailed in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

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New York inspectors find defects on oil rail lines
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.