|Washington State should phase or repair some of the older oil tank cars known as DOT-111s, that do not provide necessary protections against derailments and explosions.|
New York Times
APRIL 1, 2014
Daniel McCoy, who manages Albany County and its port on the Hudson River, decided last month, that he had to do something about the dangers presented by the rumbling oil tank cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to Albany, from which it is then shipped to refineries in the Northeast.Concerned about the safety of the county’s 300,000-plus residents, Mr. McCoy imposed a moratorium on the expansion of oil processing facilities at the Port of Albany by Global Partners, an energy company that processes the oil so that it can be transferred to river barges. It was the strongest weapon in Mr. McCoy’s limited arsenal, but he was on the right track: Tank cars are accidents waiting to happen, and regulators at all levels should take all possible steps to reduce the risks.In July, a string of tank cars derailed and exploded in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people. There have been other explosions and derailments. With these in mind, last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration completed a second round of inspections of tank cars and facilities at rail yards in the Albany area and in western New York, and called on the federal government to update its old spill response plans. Mr. Cuomo could go further by ordering an environmental impact statement of any proposals for crude oil facilities, including the one that Mr. McCoy has on hold. He might also consider bigger fees on tank cars entering New York and use the proceeds to train and equip emergency workers.Two Canadian railroads have said they are phasing out or repairing some of the older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, that do not provide necessary protections against derailments and explosions. Washington should do the same. And it should follow through on rules jointly proposed with Canada under which trains from the Bakken fields would avoid populated areas, while the oil itself would be regulated like other toxic materials. That would require more security, better spill-response plans and assurances that the cargo is properly identified.