ALBANY, N.Y. – Trains carrying crude oil through the Capital Region has been an ongoing controversy, and now Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a tough talk to the federal government.
In the past week, two derailments involving trains occurred close to Albany – one in Selkirk, the other in Kingston.
While the government has pledged safety concerns, Cuomo addressed his own concerns Tuesday, reflecting similar issues of Albany residents who live near the Port of Albany where dozens of tanker cars go through each day.
Albany resident Dominic Calsolaro is a member of Reclaim Our Waterfront.
“We can’t keep putting these off,” he said. “We can’t put the regulations off. We can’t keep saying down the road; two or three years from now.”
Cuomo echoes the same concerns as Calsolaro in a letter he released Tuesday. In his letter, Cuomo demands that the U.S. Department of Transportation and Homeland Security require railroads to report within one hour to the Federal Railroad Administration and NYS DOT any incident in which crude oil is transported, railroads to add additional identifiers to tanker cars so that local first responders understand the type of crude oil being transported, and add crude oil to the list of the hazardous materials that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security tracks.
Cuomo has already started conducting his own investigation as he awaits a response from the federal government.
“At the governor’s direction, last week DOT participated in a targeted inspection at Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany which is adjacent to the Port of Albany,” DOT spokesperson Beau Duffy said. “As far as some tank car issues that were found were some brake defects.”
Out of 120 T-111 tank cars at the Kenwood Rail Yard, investigators found three defective wheels and three defective brakes. There were also an additional 36 defects.
“We’re going to step up our inspections, and we’re going to make sure that the railroads are in compliance with all of the federal safety standards,” Duffy continued.
CSX Railroad had 13 oil cars derail in Selkirk and another oil derailment in Kingston. CSX spokesperson Bob Sullivan said the Selkirk derailment is still under investigation.
Sullivan said in a statement:
“CSX is actively participating in the U.S. DOT’s ongoing review and analysis of current crude by rail standards, including strengthened tank car standards, and supports a measured approach to addressing further enhancements to oil by rail transport.”
Both recent derailments resulted in cars jumping tracks. Nothing spilled in Selkirk, and the cars in Kingston were empty.
The federal government has pledged to phase out older train cars that carry the volatile material, as more oil shipments roll through New York, but Cuomo is now joining Sen. Chuck Schumer and Congressman Paul Tonko in saying that is not good enough.
Cuomo has also issued an executive order requiring a comprehensive review of the state’s crude oil accident prevention and response programs.
Recent inspection results can be found here.