Senator Schumer Calls For Tighter Oil By Rail Standards

Apr 17, 2017

A crash last week in Rockland County involving a CSX train that hit a car-carrying trailer stuck on the tracks has U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer calling on the feds to take action.

While the CSX train involved in the accident last week was not carrying crude oil, New York Senator Schumer said the tracks are no stranger to trains that do carry crude.

“We were lucky at Wednesday’s accident but it should be a shot across the bow,” Schumer says. “It should be a warning shot.”

The Democrat says it’s time for two federal departments to expedite a rule to make flammable crude oil less volatile before it is shipped.

“I am asking that our Department of Transportation require oil companies to stabilize the highly flammable oil that is in the oil cars before it comes through Rockland County and all of New York state,” Schumer says.

And Schumer’s ask also goes to the U.S. Department of Energy. Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day says close calls should lead to higher safety standards.

“Is it going to take a tragedy for it to happen? Right now, we have not had a tragedy in New York state, yet. We’ve had near misses, yes,” Day says. “Why do we have to wait for a tragedy, for lives to be lost to get something done? This is what frustrates the senator, our elected officials, our first responders and myself. There is no reason for this.”

In addition to the Haverstraw accident, there was a CSX train derailment in Newburgh in March. And while that train was not carrying crude oil, it was carrying hazardous materials, including sulfuric acid, and derailed along the Hudson River near a major oil terminal. In both cases, there were no injuries and in Newburgh, no leaks. Again, Schumer.

“The derailments and explosions and death in Lynchburg, Virginia; in Lac-Mégantic in Canada; in Charleston, West Virginia; Aliceville, Alabama; and Casselton, North Dakota all had one thing in common,” says Schumer. “They were carrying this lighter more volatile Bakken crude.”

The Haverstraw incident occurred just outside the window of Bill Stein’s law office, where he has been since 1981.

“I was sitting in my office, which is right next to the tracks and, all of a sudden, I started to hear sounds of cracking wood, and I couldn’t imagine what it was. And then I looked out the window and then I saw two trucks going by my window, probably about two or three feet from where I’m sitting. I had no idea what they were,” says Stein. “At first I thought they were some part of the CSX train. And then once I figured out what happened, I realized that there had been incident where a car carrier had been sideswiped and it carried the car all along the building and snapping our rafters each step of the way.”

He says there was no damage inside. County Executive Day says not only did the accident miss Stein, but a gas line as well. And Day wants to see another change.

“I’m calling upon CSX to exercise common sense and recognize that when you have volatile transport, to slow down,” Day says.

Schumer also has called on CSX to reduce its speed limit in all heavily populated areas, including Rockland, and vows to keep the pressure on CSX to effect this change. A CSX spokesman, in an emailed statement, says, in part, “CSX already operates trains transporting crude oil at reduced speeds, in accordance with regulations established by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and CSX will continue to comply with all Federal regulations regarding the safe transport of this and all freight consigned to us.”

A request for comment the U.S. DOT was not returned in time for this broadcast.

After stopping in Rockland, Schumer was headed to Kingston to call on CSX to find another area to park idling trains. He then visited Poughkeepsie to urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite approvals for a riverfront dock expansion project.