Tag Archives: Hudson Valley

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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Oil trains and schools don’t mix

Repost from The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY
[Editor: See also Danger 101: Oil trains pass near Rockland schools and Groups say oil tanker cars on trains put Mid-Hudson communities, schools, infrastructure at risk.  – RS]

Oil and schools don’t mix, enviro groups say

Steve Orr, November 20, 2014
Oil train Pittsford
A train of crude-oil tank cars passing through the village of Pittsford | (Photo: Steve Orr, Democrat and Chronicle)

About 350 New York state schools, including at least 63 in Monroe County, lie within a mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying volatile crude oil, a coalition of environmental and other advocacy groups said Thursday.

The groups urged state and federal official to bolster emergency planning at those educational facilities and to require crude-oil trains to travel more slowly near schools.

“We are deeply concerned about the growing number of crude oil rail cars passing through the Hudson Valley and across New York State every day,” said Claire Barnett, executive director of the Albany-based Health Schools Network. “A catastrophic event, should it happen near an occupied school, could devastate a community for a generation or more.”

The good news locally is that districts in Monroe County near CSX Transportation’s two freight-rail corridors say they have emergency plans in place and are prepared to shelter or evacuate in the event that became necessary.

“I’m impressed with what our county schools are doing – on paper. I really am. It sounds fantastic,” said Judy Braiman of Empire State Consumer Project, one of several groups that helped with the report released Thursday.

School officials told Braiman they had fully developed emergency-evacuation plans, and staff in the affected schools were tutored in those plans. Braiman said, though, she could not be sure if that was true of every school. “My only question is, did it get down to the level of the teachers, the parents and the children?” she said.

Rail shipment of crude oil has become a hot-button topic around the country since a surge in shipments from shale-oil fields in the northern Plains. CSX has said 20 to 35 oil trains traverse upstate New York each week, headed for Albany and from there to East Coast refineries.

The shipments raise concern because this particular crude oil is highly volatile. Several oil trains have derailed and caught fire; most tragically, a train rolled downhill out of control and derailed in Lac-Megantic in July 2013, exploding into a huge conflagration that killed 47 people and destroyed several blocks of the small Canadian city’s downtown.

Federal officials say locations within a half-mile of a derailment site should be prepared to evacuate in event of a serious accident, and everyone within a mile could be in danger.

Twenty-six of the 63 Monroe County schools noted by the environment groups are within a half-mile of the tracks, according to data the groups released. Included were schools in the Churchville-Chili, Gates-Chili, Rochester, Penfield, Pittsford, East Rochester and Fairport districts. Several religious-affiliated and charter schools were included as well.

All 63 Monroe schools noted by the groups are near the CSX mainline tracks that run through the city of Rochester and adjoining suburbs. As the Democrat and Chronicle has reported, however, there is evidence that CSX prefers to route oil trains on a separate track that runs through Monroe County’s southern suburbs.

At least four schools located near those tracks are omitted from group’s list and maps, though Braiman said she did contact districts in which those schools are located.

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