Sen. Kristen Gillibrand weighed in on the safety of oil trains Friday.
Joining a cadre of other elected officials, the Democrat called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to “urgently update” and implement guidelines for safer transport of crude oil from North Dakota. She cited recent derailments across the state, including two upstate last week.
The state Department of Transportation fined CSX Railroad $10,000 earlier this week for failing to report the derailments in a timely fashion. Mile-long oil trains travel on CSX lines through neighborhoods in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, before heading south through the Hudson Valley.
“These freight trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous liquids are going through communities near homes, schools and hospitals,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “A derailment or explosion in New York could put countless lives at risk and cause major damage to our waterways. We need new guidelines to improve oil tanker safety, and far more accountability and transparency to protect public health, safety and the environment.”
According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail have increased from 9,500 tank carloads in 2008 to 400,000 last year nationally.
The U.S. DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is in the process of finalizing rules about the oil trains, including the types of tank cars that most commonly haul the oil. Known as DOT-111s, the tank cars were identified two decades ago has being vulnerable to ruptures and failures. Those concerns have increased as the cars are increasingly being used to transport the crude oil from the midwest across the country.
Gillibrand asked PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman to move quickly to issue its rules.