SCHUMER: YET ANOTHER GRADE CROSSING ACCIDENT, THIS TIME IN ROCKLAND COUNTY, IS A SOBERING REMINDER THAT OIL BY RAIL STANDARDS ARE STILL OFF TRACK; SENATOR URGES FEDS TO IMMEDIATELY EXPEDITE RULE TO MAKE FLAMMABLE CRUDE OIL LESS VOLATILE BEFORE IT IS SHIPPED THROUGH NEW YORK
On Wednesday Evening, A CSX Freight Train Traveling In Rockland, On a Track That Is No Stranger To Trains Carrying Flammable Crude, Derailed After Slamming Into A Truck In Haverstraw At The New Main Street Crossing
Many Lives Could Have Been Put At Risk If Train Carried Crude; Schumer Urges Feds To Prioritize Effort To Stabilize Highly Volatile Crude, Making Oil-By-Rail Safer
In the wake of last week’s freight train derailment in Haverstraw, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called on the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Energy (DOE) to finalize the on-going assessment of the need for oil stabilization standards, and to quickly implement new requirements that oil be stabilized prior to shipping it through Rockland County and across New York State. While the specific CSX train involved in the accident last week was not carrying crude oil, Schumer said the tracks are no stranger to trains that do carry crude. In addition, Schumer said Rockland dodged a bullet and the federal government should consider this accident a sobering reminder that current regulations are out of whack. Present-day DOT and DOE regulations, allows dangerous crude oil to be shipped without being stabilized, making violent explosions far more likely in New York State and across the country.
“While this particular train was, fortunately, not carrying crude oil, this incident serves as yet another reminder of the dangers facing Rockland County every day. We dodged a bullet last week, but one day our luck is going to run out,” said Senator Schumer. “We know many trains that rumble through the county are laden with oil, and that this oil is highly volatile. We must take steps now to make that oil less explosive because we know from accidents like Lac Magentic the disaster that can occur from derailments, especially in populated areas. Federal officials need to complete their review and fix these outdated regulations before that happens. The alternative could be devastating.”
Last week, a CSX freight train struck and destroyed a car carrier trailer that was trapped on the tracks at the New Main Street and Route 9W railroad crossing. The driver escaped without injury before the collision. Schumer noted that this crossing has a history of past collisions. According to the Federal Rail Administration, it was the site of six crashes between 1979 and 2004. Schumer warned that despite the trains not carrying oil this set of track frequently is used by freight trains carrying highly flammable crude oil.
Schumer explained that freight trains are used to transport highly volatile crude oil across New York State even though they are putting local communities in danger given they are prone to rupture and explode during derailments and said that though some efforts to regulate these shipments have been enacted not every tool is being used to protect communities like Rockland County from the risk of these shipments. At Schumer's urging requirements have been enacted that make significant improvements to tank car design standards and enhanced communication with local first responders but there is still work to be done in order to mitigate the risk of these highly flammable and dangerous materials. Schumer said it is the duty of the federal government to enact new rules and regulations to ensure that crude oil is stabilized before it ships and that every possible measure is in place to ensure the safety of residents in Rockland County and beyond.
Schumer was joined by County Executive Ed Day, Director of Rockland County Emergency Services, Gordon Wren, Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips, Mayor Michael Kohut, and impacted business owner Bill Stein.
“Railroad safety has been a long-standing major concern for me and everyone living in Rockland. We are thankful that Senator Schumer shares our concerns and joins us in advocating for stronger safety measures. There are numerous freight trains carrying highly flammable Bakken oil through Rockland County every day. We need legislation on both the state and federal level to make sure that the rail cars are the safest, most up to date available and the trains are moving at a safe speed,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.
Schumer has fought for years to secure safer oil shipments in New York. This past December, Schumer announced that, following his push, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) took its first major step toward requiring oil companies to stabilize their highly flammable crude oil before shipping it by rail. Today, Schumer highlighted that while that first step is important, USDOT and USDOE should not take their feet off the gas and should continue to advance the stabilization rule all the way through the regulatory process. Schumer has long argued that current laws allow for dangerous crude oil to be shipped through the backyards of Upstate NY – like communities without being stabilized, making violent explosions far more likely.
- Since August 2013 Schumer has pushed for the phasing out or retrofitting of DOT-111 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 DOT-111 design requirements. DOT-111 cars are not pressurized, unlike pressurized DOT-105 or DOT-112, 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 older DOT-111 cars can almost always be expected to breach in derailments that involve pileups or multiple car-to-cart accidents. These cars, prone to failure in the event of a derailment, were involved in several high-profile spills, including the tragic explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
- In April 2014, Schumer pushed for better information-sharing 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 DOT now requires this information to be shared with essential local emergency personnel.
- In July 2014, following over a year of advocacy by Schumer, the DOT proposed a rule that would require railroad companies to phase out these crude-oil-carrying cars within two years or retrofit the cars with thicker shells because the cars have proven to be prone to rupturing and exploding during derailments.
- In October 2015, in light of efforts by industry groups to extend the timeline for phasing-out dangerous DOT-111 tank cars, Schumer called on the federal DOT to stay the course and stick to the two-year phase-out it had already proposed. Schumer explained, leading industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API), the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and Association of American Railroads (AAR) proposed extending the phase-out timeline to up to ten years, despite the dangerous and unsafe nature of these tank cars. Schumer, therefore, urged the DOT to keep the two-year phase-out intact as it finalizes the rule. Schumer said a phase-out that could last ten years would be disastrous for Upstate New York and Hudson Valley communities where these trains travel each day.
Schumer is also a staunch advocate for rail safety. He pushed the FRA to investigate the recent train derailment in Newburgh and he heeded resident calls about a retaining wall in the Hudson Valley and he's routinely fought for swifter implementation of the lifesaving Positive Train Control technology. Schumer has also been outspoken on the need for railroads to conduct comprehensive sleep apnea screening for their engineers, a frequent cause of derailments, and he's successfully pushed for the installation of inward facing cameras on a number of rail systems.