Tag Archives: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Video: Bomb Trains on the Hudson River

Repost from HudsonRiverAtRisk.com
[Editor:  Another excellent regional video about the potential for horrific environmental impacts due to crude by rail.  We are doing our best to guarantee that the marshlands, valleys, cities and towns of Northern California don’t become the next Hudson River Valley, transporting billions of gallons of Bakken Crude every year.  – RS]

BOMB TRAINS ON THE HUDSON – BAKKEN SHALE COMES TO THE RIVER

By Jon Bowermaster, July 13, 2015

The sight of long trains made up of one hundred-plus black, cylindrical cars, rolling slowly through cities and towns across North America – often within yards of office buildings, hospitals and schools — has become commonplace.

Few who see them know that these sinister-looking cars carry a highly flammable mixture of gas and oil from the shale fields of North Dakota. At thirty thousand gallons per car, each of these trains carries more than three million gallons of highly flammable and toxic fuel, earning them the nickname “bomb trains.”

I see them on a daily basis in the Hudson Valley, whether stacked up four-deep alongside the thruway in Albany, crossing an aging trestle bridge in Kingston, rolling behind strip malls and health care facilities in Ulster, paralleling the very edge of the Hudson River. Several of the long, ominous-looking trains snake south from Albany to refineries in Philadelphia every day, crossing New Jersey, paralleling Manhattan.

And this oil/gas combo is not just moving by rail: Last year three billion gallons of crude that arrived in Albany by train from the North Dakota were offloaded to tanks and then barges to be shipped downriver. The very first tanker carrying crude oil ran aground, a dozen miles south of the Port of Albany; thankfully its interior hull was not breached.

The boom in this train traffic – in 2009 there were 9,000 of the black rail cars, today there are more than 500,000 – correlates directly with the boom in fracking of gas and oil across the U.S. Record amounts of both are being pulled out of the ground in the Dakotas, Colorado, Texas and thirty other states and needs to be delivered to refineries. Pipelines take time to build and often run into community resistance; since there are railways already leading in every direction the oil and gas industry has taken them over. In 2010, 55,000 barrels of crude oil were shipped by rail each day in the U.S.; today it is more than 1 million barrels … per day.

During the same period there’s been another corollary, a boom in horrific railway accidents resulting in derailments, spills, fires and explosions. Sometimes they occur near fragile wetlands (Aliceville, AL, November 2013); sometimes in neighborhoods where hundreds must be evacuated (Casselton, ND, December 2013); and sometimes in the middle of a town (Lac-Megantic, Quebec, July 2013, where 47 people were killed in a midnight derailment).

Since February 14 a half-dozen of these “bomb trains” have derailed and spilled or exploded, in Illinois, Ontario and West Virginia, leaving widespread destruction and environmental damage in their wake. A half-mile on either side of the tracks is considered within the “blast zone” when these fuel-laden trains crash. Increasingly they are mentioned as potential terrorist weapons.

bomb_train_accidents_2013-2015Efforts to regulate this explosion of shipping by rail has proven difficult. It seems that no one wants to accept the responsibility (or costs) of improving the safety of the cars, the tracks, the infrastructure they run over or the volatile fuel. On May 2 the Department of Transportation issued some new rules and regulations regarding the speed trains can travel at through communities, required updated and safer rail cars and more, but most of the proposed changes don’t take effect for many years. Environmental advocates are not hopeful for much quick change given the powerful lobbying efforts of the gas, oil and rail industries.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has previously said there was little the state could do to slow the traffic, but even he is concerned about the possibility of accident; last month the governor’s office issued a complaint after investigating train cars coming into Albany and citing 84 “defects.”

Opposition to new safety rules comes despite that the D.O.T. estimates that if this pace of shipping continues there will be fifteen major accidents every year and one of the enormity of Lac-Megantic (47 people killed) every two years.

“Even if new measures are adopted,” says Roger Downs, an Albany-based attorney with the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, “it still feels like a half-baked plan to address a wholly inappropriate way to move oil.”

 

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    All-Republican NY county unanimous in opposing Bakken oil trains and barges along Hudson River

    Repost from the Philipstown.info, Cold Spring & Philipstown NY

    Putnam Legislature Opposes Oil Trains, MTA Tax

    By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong, April 14, 2015

    With little ado, the Putnam County Legislature last Wednesday (April 8) opposed two train-transit practices, one involving freight traffic — the unsafe shipping of incendiary crude oil along the Hudson River; and the other involving commuter lines — the levying of taxes to support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, whose trains carry numerous county residents to work every day.

    By 8-0 votes (with one member absent), the legislature urged New York State to revoke permits that allow volatile oil to travel on the Hudson and to reverse its finding that expanding an Albany oil transportation terminal raises no “significant” concerns. It likewise sought the repeal of the MTA taxes on payrolls and vehicles.

    In other business at its formal monthly meeting, the legislature unanimously opted to legalize limited use of sparklers, popular Fourth of July “pyrotechnic” devices.

    Barges and ‘bomb’ trains

    In addressing the so-called “bomb” train question, the all-Republican legislature added its voice to a growing, bipartisan chorus of local governments in the Hudson Valley opposing the use of rail lines along the river, as well as barges, to move highly explosive oil without adequate safeguards. The legislature devoted much of a committee meeting in February to a background discussion of the issue. (See County Committee to Draft Call for Action on Bomb Trains.)

    Its resolution, to be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative officials, refers to use of “unacceptably dangerous” rail cars to move Bakken shale oil and heavy tar-sands oil, which originate in North Dakota and Alberta, Canada, and are more hazardous than other forms of fuel. The resolution says that daily two to three oil trains, each with 3 million gallons, travel down the western side of the Hudson, opposite Putnam. It points out that recent oil-train derailments in the United States and Canada caused “loss of property and significant environmental and economic damage” as well as, in one case, 47 deaths.

    The resolution notes that one oil company, Global Partners LP, proposes to expand its oil terminals in Newburgh and New Windsor, across the Hudson from Putnam County, which could “double the number of trains and marine vessels” carrying such dangerous fuel along the Hudson, despite the presence of designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats in the Hudson Highlands, Fishkill Creek and elsewhere. A similar expansion is proposed for an Albany facility, the legislature stated.

    The resolution also declares that:

    • Under present laws, “no collaboration must take place between the railroads and the towns through which these rail cars [go].”
    • “There have been no spill-response drills in Putnam County waters.”
    • “Putnam County’s shorelines include private residences and businesses, public parks, and critical public infrastructure at significant risk in the case of a crude-oil spill” and that “tourism based on a clean environment is an important part of Putnam County’s economy.”

    The legislature asked the state “to immediately revoke permits … allowing for the transport of up to 2.8 billion gallons per year of crude oil on the Hudson River [and] order full environmental impact studies, including the potential impacts of a crude oil spill in the Hudson River affecting Putnam County shoreline property, environmental resources, and drinking water.”

    It similarly urged the state to rescind a “negative declaration of significance” on expansion of Albany oil operations and “order a full, integrated environmental impact study of the proposed expansion” of oil terminals in New Windsor and Newburgh, as well as Albany. Under present laws, “no collaboration must take place between the railroads and the towns through which these rail cars [go].”

    “It’s not understood” how much risk the transport of volatile oil brings, said Carl Albano, the legislature’s chairman. “It’s a major, major issue in our backyard.”

    Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown, observed that the “bomb” trains run along the Hudson “over crumbling bridges and through towns and villages,” compounding the potential for devastation.

    “There are really no safeguards in place and it’s scary. If we were to have an explosion, it would be catastrophic,” Legislator Dini LoBue added.

    …(the article continues on other local business)…
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      Federal inspectors find 100 defects on crude oil trains, tracks

      Repost from the White Plains NY Journal News on LoHud.com
      [Editor: Significant quote: “At the CSX-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, 106 DOT-111 crude oil tank cars were checked and three had found to have critical defects, including a cracked weld, a missing bolt and one inoperative brake assembly….Since the state began its “inspection blitz” last February, inspectors have examined 7,368 rail cars (including 5,360 DOT-111s) and 2,659 miles of track, uncovering 840 defects, and issuing 12 hazardous materials violations. The state recently hired five new rail inspectors.”  – RS]

      Inspectors find 100 defects on crude oil trains, tracks

      By Khurram Saeed, December 15, 2014
      train
      State and federal railroad safety officials have inspected more than 7,300 rail cars and 2,600 miles of track since last February in response to increase shipments of Bakken crude across nearly 1,000 miles of New York. (Photo: Associated Press)

      A broken rail, defective train car wheels and missing bolts on the tracks were among some of the problems state and federal teams found during its most recent round of statewide inspections of oil trains and the rail lines they use.

      They identified 100 defects, including eight safety defects that require immediate action, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said in a release.

      Inspection teams from the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration on Dec. 9 examined 704 crude oil tank cars and about 95 miles of track as part of the state’s on-going response to a surge in rail shipments of Bakken crude across nearly 1,000 miles of New York.

      They did not look at the River Line, the track owned by CSX Corp. that runs through the Hudson Valley, including Rockland. As many as 30 trains carrying 80 to 100 tank cars filled with explosive crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota head south to East Coast refineries.

      But the inspection of 15 miles of CSX-owned mainline track near Albany found a critical switch gauge defect that required a speed reduction, the release said. They also discovered four non-critical defects, including loose bolts. They must be repaired within 30 days.

      “We have sent inspection crews to check rail tracks and crude oil cars across New York and we continue to find critical safety defects that put New Yorkers at risk,” Cuomo said in a statement.

      Crude oil tank cars, especially the older DOT-111 models are also in the spotlight because they have been involved in several accidents, including an derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013. Bakken crude is volatile and can catch fire should the tank rupture or derail.

      The federal government is reviewing rules that would increase safety standards.

      At the CSX-owned Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, 106 DOT-111 crude oil tank cars were checked and three had found to have critical defects, including a cracked weld, a missing bolt and one inoperative brake assembly.

      CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said in an email that the railroad “appreciates Governor Cuomo’s continued focus on making the safe transportation of energy products even safer,” adding that CSX is “committed to strong, ongoing and long-term coordination with state and local officials.”

      Since the state began its “inspection blitz” last February, inspectors have examined 7,368 rail cars (including 5,360 DOT-111s) and 2,659 miles of track, uncovering 840 defects, and issuing 12 hazardous materials violations. The state recently hired five new rail inspectors.

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