SCHUMER CALLS ON RECENTLY CONFIRMED OMB DIRECTOR DONOVAN TO PRIORITIZE & EXPEDITE REVIEW OF NEW REGS ON DANGEROUS, CRUDE-CARRYING DOT-111 TANK CARS SCHUMERS PUSH COMES AFTER NEW INFO SHOWS HUNDREDS OF CRUDE OIL TRAINS TRAVEL THROUGH NYS EACH MONTH
According To Info Released This Week, Hundreds of Trains Carrying Highly Flammable Crude Oil Rumble Across NYS Each Month Many of These Trains Transport Crude Oil In Outdated DOT-111 Tank Cars That Are Prone To Rupture & Explode During A Derailment
After Schumer Push, Feds Have Proposed A Rule To Phase-Out or Retrofit These Dangerous Tank Cars, Currently Undergoing Review At Fed. Office of Management & Budget Schumer Calls on New OMB Director Donovan To Finish Review ASAP
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the recentlyconfirmed Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Shaun Donovan to expedite the review of a proposed rule to regulate DOT111 tank cars, which are the most commonly used means of rail transport for highlyflammable crude oil even though the cars have proven to be prone to rupture during derailments. Schumer's push comes in light of information released just two days ago showing that 44 trains, with hundreds of tank cars on each train, carry crude oil through New York State each week. Schumer has long advocated for a federal rule requiring the phaseout or retrofitting of the outdated DOT111 tank car. In 2013, Schumer successfully pushed the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) to propose a rule to regulate these DOT111 tank cars but that rule has been under review at OMB for three months. The OMB must complete its review before the details of the rule become public and proceed to the next step toward enaction. Schumer urged the OMB to finish its review as soon as possible.
"Over the past few years, Upstate New York communities big and small have seen more and more freight trains laden with crude oil passing through their hometowns, carrying with them explosive cargo and inherent risk. The truly galling part is, the vast majority of these crude oil tank cars are outdated and structurally flawed, and prone to rupture and explode upon derailment. The proposed federal rule requiring the phaseout or retrofitting of these dangerous cars - a rule I strongly urged the DOT to propose last year - has been gummed up for too long in the machinery of the federal bureaucracy," said Schumer. "That's why I'm calling on the new, very competent Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shaun Donovan, with whom I worked very productively while he headed HUD, to expedite his agency's review of the rule, so it can be swiftly finalized and enforced."
Schumer continued, "It's time the feds put their foot on the gas to finalize this rule, because the chances of a derailment increase each day that goes by. God forbid a serious derailment were to occur, we must have thicker, tougher tank cars on the rails, and we can only be sure that is the case if we pass a federal rule to require them."
Since August 2013, Schumer has worked tirelessly to address issues associated with the hazardous materials these train cars carry through communities every day, namely pushing for the phasing out or retrofitting of DOT111 train cars that are prone to explosion during derailments. Following previous crashes the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a series of recommendations, including to the Pipeline and Hazmat Safety Administration to require all service tank cars carrying fuel ethanol and crude oil to have protections and features that far exceed the DOT111 design requirements. The NTSB report concluded that had the DOT111 cars been thicker and tougher, some spills and resulting fires would not have been as damaging, and the only way to avoid such problems in the future would be to retrofit or phaseout the older tanks cars. DOT111 cars are not pressurized, unlike pressurized DOT105 or DOT112 which have thicker shells and heads and are much less prone to breaching during a derailment. The NTSB found that the heads and shells of DOT111 cars can almost always be expected to breach in derailments that involve pileups or multiple cartocart accidents. As a result of this NTSB report, previous crashes, as well as the high number of these trains running through New York, Schumer once again today urged federal rule makers to expedite the process to phase out these older cars.
Schumer has also pushed for better informationsharing among railroad companies and local first responders, who are often the first on the scene of a derailment. Prior to Schumer's push, railroad companies carrying hazardous materials through New York communities were not required to notify local first responders when trains were coming and the type of hazardous material they were carrying, but a recent emergency order by the Department of Transportation now requires this information to be shared with essential local emergency personnel.
According to the American Association of Railroads, the number of railcars carrying crude oil on major freight railroads in the U.S. grew by more than 6,000 percent between 2007 and 2013. Just this week, following DOT's emergency order, it was revealed that up to 44 trains carrying crude oil travel through New York State each month, and Schumer said the number will only continue to increase.
This year, there will be more trains carrying crude across North America than ever before: nearly 1,400 carloads a day. In 2009, there were just 31 carloads a day. New York in particular, has experienced this spike, as crude from the Bakken oil deposit in North Dakota is transported to east coast refineries. It is transported on rail lines coming from the West and North towards Albany, where it is either loaded onto barges or tankers to carry it down the Hudson, or continues down along the railroad lines through the Hudson Valley towards New Jersey. These rail lines carry crude from Buffalo through Rochester, Syracuse and Utica to Albany, where it then heads south along the Hudson River before skirting New York City on its way to New Jersey.
A copy of Schumer's letter to OMB Director Shaun Donovan is included below:
Dear Director Donovan,
I write to urge you to complete your review of the Department of Transportation's draft proposal to phaseout or retrofit existing DOT111 tank cars used to transport crude oil as soon as possible. The flaws in DOT111 cars, which represent 69% of the national tank fleet carrying crude oil and ethanol, are well known and were made even more apparent with last year's tragic derailment in LacMegantic, Canada, which killed 47 people and incinerated the town's center. OMB must complete its review of DOT's rule as soon as possible in order to prevent another derailment that could endanger lives and cause significant economic and environmental damage.
Recent reports that hundreds of crude oil trains travel through Upstate New York every month-each laden with outdated and flawed DOT111 cars that are prone to rupture and explode-are of serious concern. While I understand that a variety of discussions about how best to address this issue are underway between federal agencies and the industry, I urge you to move forward with a mandatory phaseout of DOT111 cars as soon as possible. As you know, the NTSB and safety experts have long recommend the phaseout or retrofit of DOT111 cars because they are prone to breach during derailment resulting in spills and fires.
The boom in the transportation of crude oil and ethanol by train can certainly bring economic benefits to communities, but the recent and substantial increase in the transportation of hazardous materials must also include meaningful safety measures. While I fully understand the importance of conducting a thorough review of this rule, the safety of many of our nation's communities is at risk, and I ask that you complete your review of the rule to regulate these dangerous cars as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and please feel free to contact my Washington, DC office should you need more information.
Charles E. Schumer