Another derailment 2/25, 95 miles north of NYC

Repost from the Poughkeepsie Journal

Engine of empty oil train derails near Kingston; no spill

Feb. 25, 2014 5:46 PM   |  Written by Khurram Saeed
The Journal News

TOWN OF ULSTER — A CSX locomotive hauling 97 empty oil tank cars from Philadelphia to Chicago derailed near Kingston Tuesday morning, raising fresh concerns about the safety of oil trains following several deadly derailments last year.

The oil train was traveling north on the River Line — the same 130-mile track that runs through Rockland — when it derailed about 9:30 a.m. in the town of Ulster, about 70 miles north of New City. None of the tank cars went off the tracks and there were no injuries or spills, police said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order demanding shippers of volatile Bakken crude oil make sure it’s properly tested and classified before it’s transported by rail. Shippers also have to move the oil in “more robust” tank cars effective immediately.

“Shipping crude oil — or any hazardous material — without proper testing and classification could result in material being shipped in containers that are not designed to safely store it, or could lead first responders to follow the wrong protocol when responding to a spill,” the DOT release stated.

The federal emergency order was the fourth issued by the DOT in the past seven months in response to recent derailments in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada involving the volatile crude oil.

Tuesday’s derailment involved one locomotive and one car carrying sand directly behind it, River Line owner and operator CSX said in a statement. They both went off the track but remained “upright and inline,” the company said.

Service was expected to resume on the line on Tuesday after crews rerailed the track, CSX said. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

There hasn’t been a major derailment of a CSX train in Rockland in a decade. Prior to that, there had been three in six years.

“We used to have a lot of those here,” said Gordon Wren, Rockland County’s Fire and Emergency Services coordinator. “We put a lot of pressure on CSX to improve the tracks.”

Now the River Line is inspected visually twice a week, plus several times a year by sophisticated equipment that can check the condition and the stability of the rail and track structure, CSX has said.

There has been increased scrutiny on oil shipped by train in recent months, especially in communities through which the trains travel. In a typical week, 14 oil trains — made up of 80 to 100 tank cars, each holding close to 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude — pass through Rockland, a recent Journal News story revealed.

“(Tuesday’s) freight train derailment in Kingston underscores the point: A new ‘virtual pipeline’ is carrying crude oil straight through the Hudson Valley and bringing with it a whole new level of risk to our safety and our environment,” the environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper posted on its website Tuesday.

The unit trains, as they are also known, travel between the Midwest to refineries along the East Coast. Last December, a 99-car oil train hit a car carrier truck at a crossing in West Nyack. The tank cars were empty and the train did not derail but the truck’s cab went up in flames.

The U.S. DOT and the Association of American Railroads, an industry group, last week struck a voluntary deal to improve oil train safety. New measures call for trains to slow down when traveling through major cities, increased track inspections and improved emergency response planning along routes that carry trains hauling up to 3 million gallons of oil each.

“It’s great they’ve reduced the speed going through cities and urban areas,” Wren said. “I think we should be included in that.”

Sen. Charles Schumer agrees. He will hold a press conference Wednesday to contend the safety initiatives don’t go far enough.

Railroads and federal officials plan to address separately a design flaw in tens of thousands of tank cars that make them prone to rupture during derailments. Unlike tank cars that transport dangerous materials, the DOT-111 cars are not pressurized and were not built to transport flammable liquids.

Nearly 70 percent of the tank cars used to move crude oil are DOT-111s. During the past three years, Association of American Railroads has twice proposed phasing out older DOT-111 cars while retrofitting others. Since October 2011, about 18,000 DOT-111 cars have been built with thicker steel shells and other stricter safety improvements.