With domestic oil production booming, and more crude being hauled via rail tank cars, concern about public safety is mounting.
New York is the latest state to weigh in.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order calling for a top-to-bottom review of crude oil traveling by rail through New York State.
“This is as real as it gets,” State Senator Tim Kennedy tells News 4 Investigates.
Train derailments across the United States and Canada involving oil tank car breaches have caught the attention of the state.
Recently, the subject came up during a legislative hearing in Albany.
“In December a DOT-111 train carrying crude oil derailed in my district just yards from families homes in the Town of Cheektowaga,” Kennedy told a committee hearing last week.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald, who was appearing at the hearing on transportation budget matters, was asked about the review of crude oil safety.
“The governor places a high priority on rail safety and this transport of crude oil and other flammable components,” McDonald told the committee.
Governor Cuomo is calling on several state agencies to examine accident prevention and response readiness. “…we cannot afford to wait for a catastrophic accident…” Cuomo stated.
Senator Tim Kennedy, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, has been calling for a state review of disaster readiness since a December train derailment in Cheektowaga, which is part of his district. DOT-111 tank cars were involved, but did not leak.
“We want to make sure that we’re taking the proper steps to avert disaster. To make sure our communities are as safe as possible in the event of an emergency,” Kennedy said.
Among other things — Governor Cuomo’s executive order directs state agencies to assess the state’s capacity to prevent and respond to accidents involving the shipment of crude oil by rail, ship and barge.
The review will also look at the role local governments have in protecting their communities, and whether any statutory or regulatory changes are needed.
“New York State is taking swift and decisive action to ensure its readiness for potential disasters,” Cuomo says.
“I certainly think it’s a positive step,” Erie County Hazmat Team Commander Jeffrey Hartman tells News 4 Investigates.
Hartman says the state review could answer some important questions.
“What do we have coming through this area? How much of it? What are our current capabilities to prevent and preclude accidents from happening?”
The state agencies involved in the review are to report back to Governor Cuomo by April 30.