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Maloney Outlines Key Safety Measures for Rail Shipments of Crude Oil After Multiple Derailments in the Hudson Valley

Feb 27, 2014
Press Release
Demands DOT Make Mandatory Commonsense Standards

Washington, D.C. – After multiple freight rail accidents in the Hudson Valley including one this week in Ulster County, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) recommended the mandatory adoption of key safety measures to the Department of Transportation. Last week, the Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced voluntary safety measures including: increasing track inspections; equipping trains with advanced braking systems; using rail traffic routing technology to determine the safest routes; lowering speeds of trains with 20 tanker cars of crude oil; coordinating with localities through which crude oil trains run to address community concerns; installing new trackside safety technology along routes that oil trains travel; and improving emergency response support. Rep. Maloney called for these measures to be mandatory because with no formal rules or regulations, inspectors would be unable to issue fines or take other enforcement measures for failing to live up to the agreement.

“With an increasing amount of crude oil traveling through the Hudson Valley, we must increase our urgency to ensure every possible safety measure is in place,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “We must take every opportunity to keep my Hudson Valley neighbors safe by investing in commonsense safety measures that will save lives and protect our environment. Installing trackside safety technology like Positive Train Control systems is the single most important step towards reducing human error and saving lives - the safety of our neighbors and families is too important to wait.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has been working with the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to examine the environmental and economic impact of shipments of crude on the Hudson River. In December, Representative Maloney introduced legislation that would increase funding for the Railroad Safety Technology Grant Program, which invests in train control technologies, electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, rail integrity warning systems, and other new or novel railroad safety technology such as Positive Train Control. This program expired on October 1, 2013.

The full letter is as follows:

February 27, 2014

The Honorable Anthony Foxx
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Foxx:

I write to express my growing concern about the current safety regulations for transporting crude oil by rail throughout New York, including my district in the Hudson Valley. In the past year, three freight trains have derailed or caused accidents near the Hudson Valley, including one this week in Ulster County. Fortunately, no crude was spilled in either of these accidents, but we’ve seen multiple tragic and disastrous derailments in places like Quebec and North Dakota.

Although the voluntary procedures announced last week by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) are a step in the right direction, I believe these reforms must be mandatory. All trains with more than 20 carloads should have an advanced breaking system and operate at lower speeds including through high threat urban areas. In addition, there must be strong coordination with localities and necessary emergency response training, guidance and support.

As we’ve discussed before, I also believe the implementation of positive train control (PTC) must be our highest priority – especially along routes that carry oil. I will continue to advance my legislation, the Commuter Rail Passenger Safety Act, to expand the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program and Railroad Safety Technology Grant Program to help fund railroad safety technology such as PTC.

In addition to taking steps to create safer routes through rail traffic routing technology and ensuring proper hazardous materials classification, it is absolutely necessary that tank car safety standards are raised for new and existing cars. Only 14,000 of 92,000 DOT-111 tank cars are currently built to the latest industry standard, which means 78,000 tank cars prone to splitting are currently on our rails. DOT must finish the rulemaking process that will impose requirements on freight rail carriers to phase out or retrofit these cars to avoid potential derailments or oil spills.

I hope you will strongly consider moving forward with these recommendations that are also supported by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). We must take action to better align safety standards to reduce the risk associated with crude oil transportation. We don’t have time to waste in order to keep my neighbors and the environment safe. 




Sean Patrick Maloney
Member of Congress