Latest crude oil train derailment: Albany, NY, Feb. 28

Repost from the Albany Times Union

Friday’s Albany-area derailment follows rise in crude-oil shipments

Amid heightened attention, oil tankers at Selkirk yard derail without crude spill

By Claire Hughes
Updated 8:24 pm, Saturday, March 1, 2014

Oil tankers parked in the CSX Railyard on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Selkirk, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union) Photo: Cindy Schultz

Oil tankers parked in the CSX Railyard on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Selkirk, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)


The derailment of 13 tank cars carrying crude oil at the Selkirk rail yard Friday night involved no rollovers, no spills and no injuries, according to shipper CSX and state regulators.

That’s no reason for residents to rest easy, said one industry observer, as the incident comes amid heightened scrutiny of crude oil shipments nationally and locally.

“Given the controversy about crude oil shipments into Albany, you would think that CSX is doing its dead-level best to avoid a derailment,” said Fred Millar, a Virginia-based independent consultant on hazardous material shipments whose clients include cities, trade unions and environmental groups. “Any sign of messing up like this is discomforting … These crude-oil unit trains have been blowing up all over the country.”

The cars derailed about 6:30 p.m. Friday, CSX said Saturday. The Times Union received information from the state Department of Transportation about the event around midnight and first reported it on Saturday.

State Department of Environmental Conservation staff were reportedly also on site Friday evening. A call to DEC Saturday was not returned.

The incident involved a train with two locomotives and 110 rail cars, carrying crude oil from Chicago to Philadelphia. The cars stayed upright and in line with no leaks, CSX said.

All cars were re-railed by 2:30 p.m. Saturday, CSX said. The cause is under investigation, officials said.

The accident was the fourth in the state involving CSX oil tankers since December, according to published reports. On Tuesday, one of three locomotives and a sand-filled car in a 97-car CSX oil train derailed in Ulster, about an hour south of Albany. In December, a CSX crude oil train derailed near Buffalo, but tanker cars remained intact. That was also the case earlier that month when an empty oil train struck a truck that exploded at a crossing in West Nyack, Rockland County.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned,” said DOT spokesman Beau Duffy. “That’s why we did the inspections earlier this week with the governor and why we’re working with the (Federal Railroad Administration) to do these inspections.”

The derailment in Selkirk occurred the same day the Cuomo administration touted an “inspection blitz” last week of oil trains, a rail yard and a terminal at the Port of Albany, but not the Selkirk rail yard. Public concern over the crude oil shipments has been growing as a flood of crude oil is being shipped across the country from North Dakota.

In the last two years, the Port of Albany has become a major shipping point for the oil headed for coastal refineries. Two terminals have state permission to handle 2.8 billion gallons of oil a year.

“Albany has now been unfortunately sort of targeted by the oil industry for a major flow of crude oil across the continent,” Millar said. “It’s like Houston on the Hudson, except with no jobs. You have a lot of the risks, but no jobs.”

Of particular concern for local communities is whether their emergency responders, including volunteer fire departments, are equipped to handle a significant spill.

“Nobody in their right mind would think that they’re prepared for a serious release,” he said.

Selkirk Fire Department Chief Bill Asprion had no information about Friday’s derailment. CSX did not contact the fire company, he said.

The type of tank cars that derailed were DOT-111s. Particular attention has been paid to DOT-111s, a model found to be prone to rupturing during derailments. In Quebec, 47 people died in an explosion last year when DOT-111s derailed. Explosions have occurred in accidents in Alabama and North Dakota.

Last week, state inspectors looked at 120 tanker cars at the Kenwood yard at the Port of Albany, owned by Canadian Pacific Railway. They found instances of defective steel wheels and defective brakes on DOT-111s, the governor’s office said. Inspections of about two miles of Kenwood yard track found 36 defects, including loose rail joints that were “immediately repaired” by CP workers, the governor said.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that a Jan. 20 CSX derailment in Philadelphia was caused by a maintenance crew’s failure to properly anchor temporary fasteners to crossties, an investigation by the railroad found. Although no oil spilled and no one was hurt, the derailment caused concern because it occurred in a densely-populated area.