Schumer Makes Case For Boosting Rail Safety

Jul 22, 2013

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings with NY US Senator Chuck Schumer on the grounds of the Federal Building in Albany.
Credit Dave Lucas (WAMC)

Longtime rail safety advocate U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in Albany Monday to express his concern for New Yorkers who live and work in communities along rail freight lines.  With the accident in Quebec that killed 47 people still fresh, Schumer is pushing for new regulations governing tanker car safety.

The Democrat and state’s senior Senator notes oil and ethanol have been transported by train for years, but with increased supplies, oil companies find it more profitable to ship hazardous petroleum products by train.

Schumer referred to the recent tanker explosion that devastated a Canadian town, saying such tragedies don't happen every day, but he is concerned the frequency may increase with increased rail traffic upstate.

On September 7th, 1980 more than 100 firefighters braved a series of explosions and fires at the Port of Albany after a gasoline storage tank caught fire. More than a thousand South End residents were evacuated at the time.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings says the city, in the 21st century, is taking a proactive stance in preparing for any possible downtown disaster.  Schumer is calling on the Federal Railway Administration and Department of Transportation to require railroads to stop using or retrofit the standard DOT 111 tank car for moving petroleum products - he says those cars account for 69 percent of all tank cars. Schumer is hoping new regulations will head them in the direction of purchasing more modern pressurized tankers. He says the old cars can still be used for transport of less volatile liquids such as corn or canola oil.