February 27, 2014

Sen. Schumer pushes for safer oil transports

PORT HENRY — Sen. Charles Schumer says a safety initiative between the U.S. Department of Transportation and American Association of Railroads doesn’t go far enough to protect northern New York against oil-tank car mishaps.

He wants the older DOT-111 tank cars, which more easily rupture in wrecks, phased out and railroad speed limits reduced from 50 to 40 mph in populous areas on the route that Canadian Pacific Railway trains take from the Canadian border to the Port of Albany and beyond.

Most of the oil is put on barges at the Port of Albany and transported to refineries farther south, although some continue by rail to refineries. 

The shipper is Global Partners, which has a 2012 permit from the State Department of Environmental Conservation to transport 1.8 billion gallons of crude oil a year.

“There’s been a huge increase in the amount of oil passing through upstate New York,” Schumer said during a telephone press conference on Wednesday. 

“It all must be done safely. But it seems every day, we hear of a derailment.”


Schumer (D-NY) noted there was a derailment of 80 empty oil cars on Tuesday near Kingston and one last month in North Dakota, where the oil originates.

The oil that’s being shipped in dozens of “unit trains” a month is Bakken Shale crude from North Dakota deposits.

That kind of oil exploded when a 72-car train derailed on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying the town’s business district.

Schumer said about 70,000 of the DOT-111 tank cars are still in use.

“The DOT-111 cars are mainly owned by oil companies. They’re prone to rupture during derailments. It’s not a huge cost to retrofit them.”


Schumer said Irving Oil of Canada has already voluntarily phased out use of the DOT-111 cars in favor of more-resilient tank cars.

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