City Council Considers “Oil Train Task Force”

A Canadian Pacific train was headed south over the Saranac River with a majority of DOT-111 Oil Cars in tow and Ironically, this particular train went by just as the City council was preparing to discuss an Oil Train Task Force proposed by Councilwoman Rachelle Armstrong.. The City Council is meeting again Thursday evening and once they’re done with approving some minor changes to the plans for city street paving this summer, They’ll be turning their thoughts back to fine tuning a resolution that will create the Task Force.. Councilwoman Armstrong drafted the original resolution which provides for a diverse group of stakeholders who will further research the transport of hazardous materials through the region and then make recommendations to Mayor Calnon and the council on actions that would safeguard and educate citizens in the community..

The Council will take up the issue of using a task force to focus on an open ended approach. Councilwoman Armstrong suggested the groups major focus would be to investigate and report back.. “There should be opportunity for the task force to hear from the council,” She said, “And then adjust their goals as necessary.. plus find ways for the council to collaborate with other stakeholders on the rail line in the region”

Councilman Dale Dowdle agreed with taking a regional approach to the issue.. He said the county should take the lead on the issue, and suggested that any task force they develop would most likely run into road blocks when attempting to gather information and statistics.. “I’m not in favor of task forces, they just add more to the complexity of the committees and this board itself.” Dowdle said.

If the motion on the resolution hadn’t been tabled, Councilman Paul O’Connell said he would have voted to hold off on the creation of the task force.. “It’s important to have a task force and an interesting group would be nice, but the council needs to consider the overall goals of a task force in this case..”

Plattsbrugh Mayor Jim Calnon says when the city considers developing a task force, it’s important that they have a specific focus..  The council will be discussing those issues in tonight’s work-session and will most likely have a revised version of a resolution ready for a vote on the 31st..

DOT INTRODUCES NEW RULES

The Department of Transportation is introducing new rules and safety standards for transporting volatile liquids across U.S. rail lines. Congressman Bill Owens, in and Email to WNBZ says These New standards will be introduced for tank cars, brakes, shipment testing and speed limits for trains carrying flammable liquids including oil and ethanol… During his remarks Owens says “As the DOT begin the process of implementing these new standards, their goal must be to strike the right balance, in ensuring community safety while minimizing regulatory restrictions that can hurt commerce.”

The new rules would also require railroads and shippers to notify State Emergency Response Commissions or other appropriate state delegated entities about the operation of trains carrying 1,000,000 gallons or more of Bakken crude oil through their states.

This DOT announcement follows the release of its report earlier in the week on the volatility of crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, which represents a significant portion of the increased rail traffic moving through Canada to the Port of Albany. A large number of these shipments use DOT-111 tank cars that have a capacity of around 30,000 gallons, with as many as 120 of these cars traveling through the Adirondack Park on Canadian Pacific rail lines every day.

A train headed north with empty cars will typically hold even more as some have counted upwards of 175 cars on the return trips..

Congressman Owens is supporting an effort that would put cars that have been upgraded into a category with fewer restrictions, encouraging rail companies to make these safety upgrades.. One benefit for example, he continues is to give upgraded cars faster speed limits while keeping the older cars at slower speed limits,”

The DOT is currently accepting comments on their new rules and corresponding hazard response planning,

Additional details about the new standards and DOT rationale for establishing them can be found here.

For those interested in commenting on the new rule and corresponding hazard response planning, the DOT is accepting public comments. Once these proposals are posted, comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov.

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