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February 27, 2014

Sen. Schumer pushes for safer oil transports

(Continued)

PORT HENRY —

“We need a plan to make things safe,” the senator said. 

He called the DOT recommendations “a good first step,” but then said, “They don’t go far enough.”

Schumer is calling for the agreement to be amended to take the DOT-111 cars out of service by July 1 or have a plan by then to do so.

And he wants rail speed limits lowered for communities in all of upstate New York and the Hudson Valley where the oil trains pass through.

‘ALWAYS AWARE’

Clinton County Emergency Preparedness Director Eric Day says rail-car safety is constantly on his mind.

“We’ve had bad stuff coming through here for years, and we are always aware of it and train for it,” he said Wednesday.

In light of last year’s disasters, area emergency-response teams spent a week in 2013 conducting exercises specific to rail-car accidents. 

The training was, in fact, Day said, sponsored by CP Rail and included dealing with several kinds of spills.

“I think we have gotten out ahead of this, and I feel comfortable where we stand today,” he said.

But even with extensive training, Day said, some disasters can be extremely difficult to handle. Oil fires, for instance, would probably have to be contained and left to burn out while the area is evacuated.

“None of us (area emergency response units) really have the resources to put out a large oil fire,” Day said.

“We are just not in that business.”

‘CAN ONLY HELP’

With that in mind, Day said, stricter safety regulations that political leaders are pushing for can only help.

“There has been a lot of reaction to the recent accidents, but we are always aware of potential rail disasters, and we will continue to train for them,” he said.

Clinton County Legislator Robert Hall (D-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh), who chairs the county’s Public Safety Committee, said more meetings will be held this year to discuss the topic.

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