10.19.18

SCHUMER TO FEDS: WHEN IT COMES TO DANGEROUS OIL TRAINS, DON’T SKIMP ON THE BRAKES; SENATOR SAYS OIL TRAINS MUST HAVE THE BEST BRAKING SYSTEMS AVAILABLE TO SAFEGUARD OUR COMMUNITIES

The Fast Act Of 2015 Included A Provision Requiring All Freight Carriers To Equip Trains Carrying Crude Oil With Electronically Controlled Pneumatic Brakes; This September, Federal DOT Repealed The Critical Regulation

Standing In Fonda NY, Schumer Today Called On DOT To Reverse Course And Leave The Brake Provision In Place; Said Installing Most-Effective Brake Systems Possible On Dangerous Trains Is Critical To Public Safety  

Standing in Fonda, NY, beside the CSX main freight line, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to reverse course and leave-in-place the rule created by a provision Congress passed in the Fixing America’s Surface Transport (FAST) Act of 2015 that requires freight carriers to equip high hazard flammable unit trains carrying crude oil or hazardous materials with Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes by 2023. Specifically, Schumer explained that PHMSA, earlier this year, amended the rule to strip away this critical requirement.

Schumer called the repeal of the ECP brake provision absolutely unacceptable, as it is critical to ensure an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to train-safety standards, including using the latest technology, in order to best safeguard New York communities and prevent horrific accidents. In 2013, two CSX freight trains carrying hazardous materials in Fonda collided after one ran a stop signal, derailing onto Route 5, causing millions of dollars in damages, and leaving crew members injured. Schumer said that if one or both of those trains had been an oil unit train, the consequences could have been catastrophic. Schumer said this Montgomery County accident, which reminds us accidents can and do occur along this main line, shows exactly why the ECP brake provision is so important, and called on PHMSA to reverse course and reinstate it.

Schumer said, “The Montgomery County accident in 2013, reminds us accidents can and do occur along this main line, shows exactly why the safest available Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brake system is so important, and that is why the federal DOT and PHMSA should reverse course and reinstate this vital safety rule.”

Schumer added, “Every day across Upstate New York, unit trains of up to 80 tank cars of crude oil or ethanol pass through backyards and by schools and homes and near places of business, putting communities at risk if tank cars derail or puncture. It is clear to me that we need an all-of-the-above approach to safety, so I am urging the DOT to reverse course and require freight carriers to equip their trains with Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brake systems. Tragic accidents across the country, and even right here in Fonda, demonstrate clearly the need of installing the latest and most effective braking systems on all trains carrying highly explosive crude oil and ethanol.   So today, my message to DOT is simple: if we must have so much crude oil and ethanol transported through our communities every day, we cannot afford to skimp on the brakes.”

Schumer explained that on September 25, 2018 the DOT and PHMSA published the rule “Hazardous Materials: Removal of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic Brake (ECP) System Requirement for High Hazard Flammable Unit Trains”. Schumer explained that this final rule removed the requirements for freight carriers to install ECP brakes on their unit trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials, such as ethanol. According to Schumer, braking systems are integral to preventing disasters and reducing damages during crashes. Schumer said that safe braking systems like ECP brakes have many benefits, including allowing for better train control with uninformed instantaneous stopping. ECP braking systems also keep brakes aligned to prevent more cars from being derailed in the event of an accident.

On June 27 2013 two CSX-owned trains collided in Fonda, NY. According to reports, the accident occurred because one train ran through a stop sign. In their accident report, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) stated that the crash caused $2.4 million in total damages to the train themselves and the tracks, in addition to damaging the nearby Route 5. The accident also injured two crew members on board the freight trains. Schumer said that while the consequences of the crash and subsequent derailment were severe, they could have been infinitely worse had one or both of those trains been one of the crude oil unit trains that are common on this line. Schumer cited the 2013 Fonda derailment as an example of the damage that can be done by these accidents and why the ECP brake provision for crude oil and high hazard trains must be left in place.

Schumer explained that challenges associated with unit trains of crude oil, ethanol and hazardous material by rail have been an ongoing issue for a number of years. After steadily declining, the volume of oil shipped by rail increased throughout the northeastern United States this decade as domestic production of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota as increased. Schumer said that unit trains of up to 80 cars of crude oil routinely travel across the state on the CSX line from Erie, PA to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Amsterdam, before cutting southeast to Selkirk, and then down the west shore of the Hudson River through Kingston and Newburgh and into New Jersey. Additionally, Canadian Pacific carries crude oil and ethanol unit trains from Canada south through Rouses Point, Plattsburgh, Saratoga and into Albany. Schumer did applaud the DOT for heeding his call and taking an important first step in issuing a proposed rule on tank car standards. However, Schumer warned, as has been demonstrated both in studies and in recent incidents, a new tank car standard alone, while an important piece of the puzzle, is not enough to fully protect communities from the dangers of crude by rail shipments. Schumer also cited the tragic derailments in Lac- Mégantic, Quebec; Aliceville, Alabama; Casselton, North Dakota; Lynchburg, Virginia; and Charleston, West Virginia as examples illustrating the extreme dangers of shipping crude by rail, and said that it is critical to do everything possible to prevent such disasters from ever happening again.

Schumer said that when it comes to protecting communities in Upstate New York from the dangers of crude by rail shipments, an all-of-the-above approach is necessary. Schumer explained that this approach must include safe stabilized products, comprehensive tank car standards, accessible information and resources for local parties to prepare for shipments coming through their communities, and the latest braking system technologies.

Schumer was joined by Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort and Montgomery County Emergency Manger Jeff Smith.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to PHMSA appears below.

I write to express my concerns about the repeal of the federal regulation which requires, as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transport (FAST) Act of 2015, that crude oil rail cars be equipped with electric pneumatic brakes by the middle of next decade.  With trains carrying hazardous materials traveling through communities across New York, it is critical to ensure train cars have strict safety standards and carry the latest technology to prevent horrific accidents.

The Final Rule published on September 25, 2018 “Hazardous Materials: Removal of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic Brake (ECP) System Requirements for High Hazard Flammable Unit Trains” by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) removes the requirements put in place for ECP brakes. Braking systems are integral to preventing disasters and reducing damages during crashes. Safe braking systems like electronically-controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP) have many benefits including allowing for better train control with uniformed instantaneous stopping.  ECP braking systems’ keep brakes aligned to prevent more cars from being derailed in the event of an accident.

Challenges associated with crude oil and hazardous material by rail has been an ongoing issue for a number of years. After steadily declining, the volume of oil shipped by rail has recently increased throughout the northeastern United States. New Yorkers face dangers due to hundreds of tank cars full of crude traveling through the state every day. I applaud the Department of Transportation for heeding my call and taking an important first step in issuing a proposed rule on new tank car standards. However, as has been demonstrated both in studies and in recent incidents, a new tank car standard alone, while an important piece to the puzzle, it is not enough to protect communities from the dangers of crude by rail shipments.  The dangers of shipping crude oil by rail are clear following the tragic derailments in Lac- Mégantic, Quebec; Aliceville, AL; Casselton, ND; Lynchburg, VA; and Charleston, WV, and we must do all we can to prevent disasters like this from happening again.

When it comes to protecting communities in New York from the dangers of crude by rail shipments we need an all-of-the-above approach. This approach must include safe stabilized products, comprehensive tank car standards, accessible information and resources for local parties to prepare for shipments coming through their communities, and the latest braking system technologies. I appreciate your attention to this matter. Should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office

Sincerely,

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