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Rail News: Safety

Crude-by-rail safety reports released in New York, Washington


The Washington Department of Ecology on Monday delivered a report to state legislators outlining key recommendations to improve public safety in response to the rapid increase of crude-by-rail shipments through the state.
The Washington Legislature requested the study due to recent changes in how crude is transported through rail corridors and waterways. The "Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study" includes 40 recommendations on ways to better protect public health and safety — such as the prevention of an oil train derailment or spill — as well as how to better respect tribal treaty rights.
The Washington Department of Ecology coordinated with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD) to research and compile the report. Other contributing agencies include the Federal Railroad Administration and Washington State Department of Transportation. A final report is expected to be delivered to the Legislature March 1, 2015.
In June, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee asked for preliminary findings and recommendations, which were delivered Oct. 1. The preliminary report contained a prioritized list of 12 legislative and budget recommendations that focus on emergency preparedness and response for the next three years.
"In our survey of first responders, we heard from a large percentage of districts that believe they need additional training or resources to effectively respond to a train derailment and fire," said Karen Ferreira, EMD's study coordinator, in a press release. "We are committed to working with communities, as well as our state Legislature, to ensure first responders at every level receive the support they need to keep our neighborhoods and citizens safe."

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday received a status report outlining the progress made by state agencies to improve crude-by-rail safety. The agencies have implemented 66 actions to strengthen standards, regulations and procedures.

Among the actions:
• The New York State Department of Transportation added five rail safety inspectors to improve existing rail safety enforcement capabilities; initiated seven crude-oil inspection blitzes; and teamed up with the Federal Railroad Administration to inspect 6,664 rail cars — including 4,656 DOT-111 cars — and 2,564 miles of track, resulting in the detection of 740 rail and equipment defects.

• Various state agencies participated in CSX Transportation’s railroad and tank car training in summer, as well as three preparedness training exercises sponsored by Canadian Pacific and Global Partners LLP.

• The New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services increased crude oil-related training for local fire service organizations and pursued new training programs.

• The New York Department of Environmental Conservation secured the federal government's commitment to update oil spill response plans.

• State officials urged the feds to expeditiously implement stringent regulatory changes that would improve tank-car design specifications and expedite the phase-out of older, unsafe rail cars, and require comprehensive, geographically specific oil-spill response plans for crude trains.

• State officials urged the American Petroleum Institute, the federal government and the governor of North Dakota to take action to remove volatile gases from Bakken crude prior to shipping it across the country.

"Over the past six months, our administration has taken swift and decisive action to increase the state's preparedness and better protect New Yorkers from the possibility of a crude oil disaster," said Cuomo in a press release. "The federal government plays a vital role in regulating this industry, and Washington must step up in order to expedite the implementation of safer policies and rules for crude oil transport."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/3/2014