Letter to require increased safety standards in the operation of high-hazard flammable oil trains

This week, nearly two dozen Assemblymembers have signed onto a letter I initiated to the U.S. Department of Transportation, to support of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's petition to require increased safety standards in the operation of high-hazard flammable oil trains by establishing a federal vapor pressure standard for crude oil shipped by rail within the United States. 

Given our region’s location as the convergence of rail lines from Canada and our country’s western states, we must continue to push crude oil transportation and storage safety and the protections, including the guidelines at the federal levels.

The growth of crude oil transport by rail has put many of our communities at risk. There have been numerous examples of incidents that have caused explosions resulting in significant property and environmental damage, and in some instances, loss of life. The petition submitted by the Attorney General is aimed at lowering the volatility of crude oil before it is transported. Evidence suggests that crude oil with higher Reid vapor pressures have a much greater tendency to ignite and explode. 

The petition requests the establishment of a federal Reid vapor pressure limit at a level of less than 9.0 pounds for square inch. This practice is already in place in some areas of the country, but it is not universal. Shippers operating in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, where the oil produced has similar vapor pressures to Bakken crude, commonly stabilize the crude before transport. 

While nothing short of removing this dangerous product from the rail lines will fully protect our communities, this is a common sense safety measure that deserves support. 

-Diana Wright, PAUSE facilitator


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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.