NY Gov. Cuomo accuses federal officials of moving “unacceptably slow” on proposed rules

Repost from RecordOnline, Middletown, NY

Cuomo: Feds need to address crude-oil shipments by rail

By Leonard Sparks, Dec. 1, 2014

ALBANY – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to tighten rules governing crude-oil shipments by rail as the state released a report Monday documenting actions to protect Hudson River communities from derailment-related spills and explosions.

State rail inspectors uncovered more than 700 track and equipment defects and 12 hazardous material violations during seven inspection “blitzes” this year, according to the report, which documents New York’s progress in implementing 12 recommendations to improve safety.

Cuomo’s administration accuses federal officials of moving “unacceptably slow” on proposed rules to make crude shipments safer, including a proposal to phase-out the DOT-111 rail cars that many consider unfit for shipping oil.

“Over the past six months, our administration has taken swift and decisive action to increase the state’s preparedness and better protect New Yorkers from the possibility of a crude oil disaster,” Cuomo said. “Now it is time for our federal partners to do the same.”

Hydraulic fracturing has fueled a surge in U.S. oil production and the use of trains to carry highly flammable crude from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota to Albany’s port. From there it is shipped by rail and water down the Hudson River valley.

On July 6, 2013, a train derailed at Lac-Megantic, a town in Quebec, Canada. Oil leaked from the train’s DOT-111 cars and ignited, causing explosions and the deaths of 47 people.

In February, a freight train pulling empty oil cars derailed in the Town of Ulster. Supervisor Jim Quigley said he has been vocal about upgrading the tank cars.

New York added five safety inspectors, began training local emergency responders and started the process of updating spill-response plans as part of a multipronged strategy to protect communities along shipment routes.

Last month, the state urged the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to “expeditiously” remove DOT-111 cars from service or require they be retrofitted to carry oil.

Sen. Charles Schumer described the cars as “ticking time bombs.”

“I am pushing DOT to commit to the strongest of these regulations as soon as possible,” he said. “We can’t afford any delay.”