Crude Oil Shipments

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Senator Charles Schumer is introducing legislation that would require crude oil to be transported in studier tanker rail cars within two years, instead of later deadlines included in federal regulations announced last week. The New York Democrat says upstate communities the oil trains pass through, including Albany — a major hub for shipments — remain at risk for explosions and contamination from derailments. 

  Multiple defects have been found at Capital Region railyards in the latest round of oil train inspections. 

According to Governor. Andrew Cuomo’s office , the inspections showed 84 defects locally in the Colonie, Kenwood and Selkirk rail yards and on tracks between Fonda and Rotterdam.

Two critical defects (those are the most serious) were found after 107 tank cars in the Selkirk Rail Yard were checked. Two shipper violations were issued.

PAUSE

With another oil train crash making headlines, activists in Albany are heading over to city hall this evening to demand something be done about the tankers that pass through some of downtown Albany's most densely populated areas.

Activists, politicians and private citizens are reacting to the latest in a series of oil train mishaps: a firey derailment February 16th in West Virginia of a train hauling 3 million gallons of crude oil that destroyed a home, endangered a Kanawha River tributary, and affected two water treatment plants downstream.

Justin Mikulka

The Cuomo administration has proposed boosting New York's oil spill fund to $40 million amid the recent surge in railroad shipping and dangerous derailments, while transferring authority from the state comptroller to its own environmental staff.

The increased funding is supported by the comptroller's office and environmentalist groups. Shifting control to the Department of Environmental Conservation is not.

The administration says the agency would be more efficient.

The comptroller says his office provides stronger oversight.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced completion of the latest round of targeted crude oil tank car and rail inspections.

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Another community public information session to discuss Global Partners’ application to modify its existing air permit is being held tonight in Albany.

Harvey Henkelmann/Wikimedia Commons

A coalition of environmental groups and city residents has filed a legal petition seeking a ban on older model rail tanker cars carrying volatile crude oil from North Dakota to the Port of Albany.

The petition filed Tuesday by a group represented by Earthjustice asks Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens to issue an order prohibiting receipt of crude in DOT-111 tank cars at the port.

A DEC spokesman said the federal government has sole authority to regulate oil transport by rail.

Pat Bradley

Public outcry against the so-called "Bomb trains" reached a fever pitch over the holiday weekend - as communities across North America marked the one-year anniversary of the crude oil train disaster in Quebec.  In the heart of a Canadian town, 47 people were killed, thousands had to be evacuated and dozens of buildings were destroyed.  

Names of the victims were read during several of the memorial gatherings in communities bordering rail lines where residents fear the next derailment, explosion or fire could affect in their neighborhood.

The federal government has ordered railroads to give states details about shipments of volatile crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale region, but New York officials haven't decided whether to share that information with the public.

The Associated Press and eight environmental groups filed Freedom of Information Law requests with the state Office of Emergency Management this week. They argue that it's in the public interest for communities to know more about the shipments. There were eight major accidents during the last year, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec.

Tipiac-Alain Caraco/Wikimedia Commons

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.

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