NY Governor Cuomo sends letter to President Obama an hour before Lynchburg explosion

Repost from The Auburn Citizen, Auburn, NY
[Editor: See below for copy of Governor Cuomo’s letter and the New York State Transporting Crude Oil Report.  – RS]

Cuomo to President Obama: Better federal safety standards needed for rail transport of crude oil

April 30, 2014 • Robert Harding
Train Derailment
Firefighters and rescue workers work along the tracks where several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire along the James River near downtown in Lynchburg, Va.., Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Police said that 13 or 14 tanker cars were involved in the derailment. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Shortly before a train carrying tankers filled with crude oil derailed and exploded in Lynchburg, Va., Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the federal government to establish better safety regulations for the rail transport of crude oil to help prevent major accidents from occurring that could pose a threat to New York communities located along rail lines.

Cuomo sent a letter Wednesday to President Barack Obama calling for tougher federal regulations. In the letter, Cuomo included recommendations for the federal government, including new tank car regulations and updated environmental and contingency response plans. He also called for the removal of DOT-111 tank cars, a type of car that has been labeled “dangerous” because of the high risk of explosion if it derails carrying crude oil.

“As a result of the recent boom in domestic petroleum production, New York state is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of crude oil trains passing through the state from production areas in the upper Midwest to refineries in the mid-Atlantic and Canada,” Cuomo wrote to President Obama. “This type of crude oil, known as Bakken crude, is highly volatile and is being transported in significant volume across the country by inadequate rail tank cars.

“New York and all the states subject to this crude oil boom are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of a derailment, spill, fire or explosion, as demonstrated by three catastrophic incidents in the last nine months involving such trains. I urge your immediate attention to this issue.”

The recommendations for the federal government were included in a report released Wednesday. The report, Transporting Crude Oil in New York State: A Review of Incident Prevention and Response Capacity, was prepared by a handful of state agencies after Cuomo issued an executive order in January.

While the report makes recommendations to the federal government for improving rail transportation safety, emergency preparedness and strengthening environmental protections, the agencies also recommended the state take action in these three areas.

The report also recommends industry changes, including implementation of a web-based information access system by rail companies to provide real-time information on hazardous materials. The agencies also called for an expedited risk analysis for crude oil to determine the safest and most secure rail routes for trains with at least 20 cars of crude oil.

While Cuomo said the state can take steps to be better prepared, he said it’s the federal government’s responsibility to regulate the industry.

“New York will continue to aggressively pursue measures that ensure its safety,” Cuomo wrote. “However, the fundamental responsibility for the safe transportation of crude oil across the country resides with federal agencies.”

Cuomo’s office distributed the governor’s letter to President Obama and the state report about an hour before reports of the train accident in Lynchburg, Va. The News & Advance in Lynchburg reports that an estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled in the incident.

After learning of the train derailment, Cuomo issued a statement repeating his call for the federal government to take action.

“Earlier today, I wrote a letter to President Obama urging the federal government take immediate steps to bring much needed and overdue safety regulations to the crude oil transportation system. Just hours later, news comes of yet another serious oil train derailment, this time in Lynchburg, Virginia. Our thoughts and prayers are with any possible victims of this accident,” Cuomo said.

“This is the latest in a series of accidents involving trains transporting crude oil, a startling pattern that underscores the need for action. In addition to steps that states like New York are taking, the federal government must overhaul the safety regulations, starting with taking DOT-111 trains off the rails now. These trains travel through populated communities in upstate New York and we cannot wait for a tragic disaster in our state to act.”

Here is the letter from Cuomo to President Obama:

Gov. Cuomo’s letter to President Obama

Here is the state report on transporting crude oil:

New York State Transporting Crude Oil Report