Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Wednesday directing state agencies to do a thorough review of safety regulations and emergency response preparedness for shipments of volatile crude oil.
Volatile crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota travels through the state by rail and ships and barges on the Hudson River for about 1,000 miles, state officials said. The Port of Albany handles about 40,000 carloads of Bakken crude oil annually, according to state reports.
Bakken crude oil is more volatile than traditional crude oil and requires enhanced protections along rail lines and waterways. The order was made after about 1,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled into the Delaware River in Pennsylvania on Monday, Gannett’s Ashley Hupfl reports.
“The safety of our communities, our residents and our natural resources must be the highest priority and we cannot afford to wait for a catastrophic accident to access and reform the way this crude oil is transported through our State,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York is taking swift and decisive action to ensure its readiness for potential disasters.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation, Transportation, and Health, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the state Energy Research and Development Authority, along with federal authorities, have until April 30 to report back their findings to the governor.
In the 2014-2015 executive budget, Cuomo proposed to double funding for the state’s current inspection capability of its 3,500 miles of railroad tracks.
The state will be reviewing routes of crude oil trains, seek amendments to federal standards for flammable liquids to Bakken crude oil and seek stricter standards to test properties of crude oil, Cuomo said. He said the state will also try to phase-out tank cars that cannot be retrofitted and revise the design of some railcars to minimize the release of crude oil in case of a spill.
The state is also asking the U.S. Coast Guard to review and propose certain safety precautions for facilities and vessels while transferring Bakken crude oil from rail cars to ships and barges.
Cuomo said that New York is preempted by federal restrictions to engage in regulatory changes of rail freight transportation and freight car safety standards. So the executive order calls for a maintenance and inspection partnership with the federal government.