Rail Inspections Ramp Up in Albany and Buffalo
By JAD MOUAWADFEB. 28, 2014
New York State regulators conducted a series of inspections over the last week at the Port of Albany and on rail tracks in Albany and Buffalo to increase the safety of the surging oil-by-rail business, according to a statement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Albany has emerged in the last two years as a key hub for shipping oil from North Dakota to refineries along the East Coast. And the rise in production from the Bakken shale region has prompted concerns about the hazards of moving potentially explosive oil by rail.
Federal and state officials have been under pressure to beef up their oversight of the industry and tighten regulations. The issue is particularly sensitive in Albany, where millions of gallons of oil arrive each day aboard two oil trains and are then transferred onto barges and tankers heading down the Hudson River.
Several facilities were inspected over the last week. At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, inspectors examined 120 crude oil tank cars and found three defective wheels and three defective brake shoes. They also examined two miles of track and 31 switches and found 36 defects including loose rail joints and fasteners. Those were repaired immediately. Similar inspections took place at the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo and along four miles of track there.
One focus was looking for a “shell type” wheel defect found on tank cars. It is characterized by excessive wear of the hardened steel surface of the wheels and results in flat areas that can cause a pounding effect on the rails.
“Although these wheel conditions are not known to have contributed to any derailment incidents to date, federal, state and Canadian officials are examining the specific cause of these shell defects out of an abundance of caution for potential collateral defects,” the governor’s statement said.
The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation also kicked off inspections of the major oil storage facilities owned by Global Partners, the largest oil shipper in Albany. The examination is intended to determine if the facilities can contain any spill and prevent contaminations into the Hudson.
The Federal Railroad Administration issued a violation to Green Plains Renewable Energy of Nebraska, a shipping company, after finding that the bottom outlet nozzle caps on two tank cars carrying ethanol were not properly secured. The violation could result in a civil penalty.
A version of this article appears in print on March 1, 2014, on page B7 of the New York edition with the headline: Rail Inspections Ramp Up in Albany and Buffalo. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe