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Inspection blitz launched to protect New Yorkers from potential accidents involving volatile crude oil

ALBANY -  State officials have launched a series of inspections to safeguard New York’s residents, communities, waterways and lands from potential serious incidents involving the shipment of volatile crude oil by rail throughout the state. Working with federal authorities throughout this week, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) participated in a series of inspections at the Port of Albany and its adjacent rail yard, as well as inspections in Albany and Buffalo along rail tracks and in rail cars. In addition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is conducting inspections today at the Port of Albany.

“We are taking action to safeguard our communities from the potential risk of crude oil shipments by launching more aggressive and enhanced enforcement of rail safety,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “This inspection blitz has resulted in immediate improvements to some of the State’s busiest rail sites. In addition to performing these and other inspections with our federal partners, my administration will continue to urge Washington to enact improved rail and port safety practices that are both mandatory and enforceable.”

These inspections stem from the growing concern regarding the volatility of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and its significantly increased shipment by rail throughout New York State. Just last month, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order directing several State agencies to do a top-to-bottom review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to shipments of rail, ship and barge shipments of crude oil following several severe accidents, including the deaths of dozens of people, the evacuation of thousands and devastation of entire communities. This review is due by April 30. Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order also directed agencies to work with federal partners to enhance preparedness and oversight. The federal government has nearly exclusive regulatory authority over railroad transportation.

The first round of inspection efforts concludes just one week after Cuomo Administration officials traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with federal transportation authorities to express their concerns about the safety of New York State communities due to the increased transport of Bakken crude oil throughout the state. On Friday, Feb. 21, state environment and transportation officials met with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), FRA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, resulting in an agreement to coordinate and increase federal and state efforts to inspect rail and port facilities to safeguard the surrounding communities and the environment from oil spills.