ALBANY, NY (03/05/2014)(readMedia)-- New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald announced today that the Department has fined CSX Railroad a total of $10,000 for failing to report as required two derailments last week that involved tank cars transporting crude oil. Under New York State law, rail accidents involving freight trains carrying hazardous materials must be reported to NYSDOT within one hour of the accident.
"Public safety is our top concern, and we will remain vigilant in holding rail companies accountable for following state law when transporting hazardous materials," said Commissioner McDonald. "These regulations are in place to ensure a proper response in order to protect public safety and the environment, and any failure to comply will not be tolerated."
On February 25, CSX failed to report to NYSDOT the derailment of a train in Kingston involving empty rail cars that had recently off-loaded crude oil. On February 28, nearly two hours after the fact, CSX notified NYSDOT of a derailment at the Selkirk Yard involving a train fully loaded with crude oil from North Dakota. No oil was spilled in either incident. The causes remain under investigation.
Under State law, Commissioner McDonald has the authority to fine CSX up to a maximum of $5,000 for each incident.
Under the leadership of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State has taken an aggressive approach to addressing the potential hazards of the shipment of volatile Bakken crude oil through the state. Just yesterday, Governor Cuomo issued a letter to the United States Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, calling for expedited rail safety standards and increased inspections, declaring current safety standards insufficient to prevent accidents. The Governor also called for the improved labeling of tank cars so first responders can identify cars carrying Bakken Crude oil, and urged Homeland Security officials to share with the State real-time shipping information for Bakken Crude and other hazardous materials.
Last week, under the direction of Governor Cuomo, the New York State Departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation (DEC) commenced an inspection blitz 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 this week, NYSDOT participated in a series of inspections at the Port of Albany and the adjacent Kenwood Rail Yard, as well as inspections at the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo. In addition, DEC commenced a multi-week inspection at the Port of Albany.
Inspections by NYSDOT covered 120 tank cars, two miles of track and 31 switches and found numerous defects that needed to be repaired or addressed. Additional federal inspectors requested by Governor Cuomo would help to safeguard against future derailment incidents. Sharing of information about shipments of hazardous materials as well as identifiers on train cars would expedite appropriate response efforts.
As directed by Governor Cuomo's executive order issued Jan. 28, state officials will continue their top-to-bottom review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to shipments of crude oil by rail, ship and barge and will continue to work with federal partners to enhance preparedness and oversight. As part of that review, state authorities will consider the adequacy of the maximum fine for failure to comply with state reporting requirements to ensure their effectiveness.
Below is text of the letter from NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald notifying CSX of the fine:
Michael J. Ward, President
CSX Transportation Inc.
500 Water Street, 15th Floor
Jacksonville, FL 32202
RE: Unreported Train Derailments in New York
Dear Mr. Ward:
The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is aware of two recent derailments of CSX trains that were not timely reported as required by New York's Codes of Rules and Regulations. These two derailments involved trains engaged in the transportation of crude oil. Due to the critical failure to provide timely notification of these derailments, I am invoking NYSDOT Commissioner's power under section 131 of the Transportation Law to address these failures with penalties of $5,000 per violation. Enclosed with this letter are the two notices of violation.
NYSDOT has long required that train derailments be reported to NYSDOT in order to protect public safety and facilitate the appropriate emergency response. The derailment that occurred on February 25, 2014 in Kingston involved empty rail cars that had recently off-loaded crude oil and occurred after the conductor missed a red signal and reversed the train through a switch. NYSDOT was not notified about this derailment and learned about it from the newspaper. The incident on February 28, 2014 involved a derailment of thirteen tank cars fully-loaded with crude oil. The derailment occurred and was known to CSX at 6:40 pm but not reported until 8:24 pm.
Governor Cuomo has stressed the risks to public safety to hundreds of New York's communities caused by the increase in shipment of crude oil and petroleum products. In view of the untimely notifications of these two derailments, NYSDOT is taking the action described in the enclosed notices. Any questions you may have regarding my letter or the attached Notices of Violation should be directed to NYSDOT Chief Counsel David Cherubin.
Very truly yours,
Joan McDonald, Commissioner
cc: Peter Shudtz, Esq., CSX
Louis Renjel, CSX
David Cherubin, NYSDOT