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Letter: Trains carrying Bakken oil should be inspected by DOT

Trains carrying Bakken oil should be inspected by DOT

The bomb trains have returned to upstate New York. These are trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil from North Dakota. In July 2013 one such train derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, destroying much of its downtown area and killing 47 people. The first two responders later committed suicide. Over a four-year period, there were 38 rail accidents involving trains carrying crude oil. Fourteen resulted in fire and eight of those ended in explosions.

Something had to be done. Gov. Andrew Cuomo properly ordered the Department of Transportation to begin rail and tanker inspections. The Federal Railroad Administration helped with these inspections beginning in February 2014. Over a three-year period, the two agencies inspected 11,231 crude oil-carrying tanker cars and 5,508 miles of track. They discovered 1,863 defects and issued 24 violations.

With falling oil prices, Bakken crude oil rail traffic diminished in upstate New York, and the inspection effort ended in February 2017. In the spring of that year, the last oil train passed through Buffalo. However, with the recent increase in oil prices, the crude oil trains have returned. Again the citizens of New York State and our environment are at risk. This time the risk is much, much greater because the agencies are no longer preforming rail and tanker inspections.

Cuomo should order the DOT to begin rail and tanker car inspections once again. I hope the Federal Railroad Administration will again help with these necessary inspections. But if it doesn’t, the DOT should do it alone.

Frank Gage

Co-Chairman, Environmental Justice

Task Force of the WNY Peace Center


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