There have been several developments this week impacting oil trains, the subject of national and local debate.
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday issued new proposed rules on tankers transporting oil including quickly phasing out the use of old DOT-111 rail cars for moving crude oil and other hazardous liquids. The rules would include new operational requirements to lower operating speeds and enhance braking capabilities for high-hazard flammable trains.
A relatively minor oil spill at the Port of Albany has apparently set the scene for a summer of scrutiny, with county officials putting crude-by-rail transporter Global Partners LLC under the microscope.
Albany's river port has emerged as a major hub for rail and barge shipments of crude oil. A series of incidents involving rail cars moving crude oil internationally has prompted concerns about spills and fires from some residents and environmental groups. A weekend spill underscores those concerns.
The long lines of DOT 111 oil tankers parked outside of the Ezra Prentice complex in Albany are a constant reminder to some residents they are living in the shadow of potential disaster. Critics of crude oil transportation by rail are in pro-active mode when it comes to disaster preparedness.
National environmental groups are trying to focus the spotlight on Governor Andrew Cuomo over the issue of the growing international oil distribution center, located just blocks from the state capitol, at the Port of Albany.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has announced that the county will issue a Request For Proposals for a consultant to complement the health and safety study by the Albany County Department of Health on the impact of crude oil and the heating of crude oil at the Port of Albany.
With Albany County worried about crude oil shipments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials are looking to the EPA for oil spill contingency plans and demanding answers from the major oil shipper at the crux of the controversy.
Albany County has responded to mounting concerns voiced by city of Albany residents over oil trains and oil expansion at the Port of Albany.
"It's gratifying that the county of Albany has stepped into the void and is taking action." Earthjustice staff attorney Chris D'Amato echoes the sentiments of a variety of green groups that have come forward lauding Albany County Executive Dan McCoy's decision to take a stand against plans to build oil heating facilities at the port that would likely increase the number of oil trains rolling through riverside neighborhoods.
A national conservation organization has put the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency on notice that it will follow through with a lawsuit if oil spill response plans along the Hudson River are not updated.