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Feds, N.Y. Do 2nd Oil Train Inspection Blitz

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 11:31am
Mary Esch, Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York State and federal inspectors have completed a second round of safety checks of train tracks and oil tanker cars in an effort to prevent disastrous derailments and spills of volatile crude from North Dakota's Bakken region.

The inspection blitz, which generally found only minor and easily correctable defects, is part of a proactive safety effort launched in January after several severe accidents across the U.S. and Canada, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo, a Democrat, issued an executive order on Jan. 29 directing several state agencies to conduct top-to-bottom reviews of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to rail, ship and barge transport of crude oil. The agencies are to report by the end of April with recommendations.

"Our preparedness and response plans must be adequate ahead of time, not after tragedy strikes," Cuomo said.

The Port of Albany has become a major hub for shipment of North Dakota crude to coastal refineries, with mile-long trains of tanker cars arriving daily through the heart of the city to deliver crude oil for transfer to ships and barges traveling down the Hudson River to New Jersey.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Transportation inspected three rail yards around Albany and two in the Buffalo area. Federal Railroad Administration inspectors participated. They inspected brakes and other safety equipment on tanker cars, rails, ties and other equipment.

The inspectors also looked at valves, cargo placards and record-keeping.

At Albany's Kenwood Yard, inspectors examined 120 DOT-111 tank cars for mechanical defects and found one defective brake shoe and 15 wheels with minor defects. The National Transportation Safety Board has urged replacement or retrofitting of that type of single-walled tank car, which was involved in explosions and fires in North Dakota and Quebec last year.

At the West Albany Yard, inspectors found seven minor defects on 2 miles of track, which must be repaired within 30 days, and a broken rail, which was taken out of service. Inspectors found 20 non-critical defects along a mile of track at the Selkirk Yard south of Albany.

On Feb. 28, 13 tank cars of crude oil derailed at the Selkirk Yard but didn't tip over or spill.

At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, inspectors examined 102 DOT-111 tank cars and found seven defects, including a brake shoe worn down to metal. Federal Railroad Administration inspectors issued a violation for partial failure to perform a 1,000-mile brake test.

At the Niagara Yard in Niagara Falls, inspectors examined 111 cars and found 12 minor defects. They found two switch point defects along 4 miles of track, which were immediately repaired by transportation company CSX. They also found 33 non-critical defects.

The first inspection blitz was conducted at the end of February.

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