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County Executive to Federal Government: “Now is the Time to Act”

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 1:23 PM

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today responded to a letter from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) with a clear message that more needs to be done to protect the people and the environment of Albany County from crude oil train derailments.

In June of this year, County Executive McCoy again urged multiple federal agencies to accelerate the phase-out of outdated DOT-111 oil tank cars and implement volatility standards for highly combustible crude oil and advanced brake systems to prevent catastrophic events like the derailment in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec that killed 47 people. In response, PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott cited lengthy timetables, ongoing studies and inaction.

“As the federal government fails to act on critical safety standards, the lives of local residents and U.S. citizens are put at risk and our critical infrastructure is left unprotected,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “The science is clear that these common-sense solutions can prevent more tragedies so the failure to act is a dereliction of duty on their part. I continue to call on Washington to do what is right for the American people.”

The County Executive took further action today, sending a letter to the federal Transportation Security Administration urging them to add the City of Albany to the list of High Threat Urban Areas. This would reduce the speed limit from 50mph to 40mph for oil train operators in designated urban areas. Currently, Yonkers and Buffalo are the only two urban areas in New York State on the list, despite the Capital Region having a population of over one million.

Data from the Energy Information Administration shows that oil-by-rail shipments that each contain millions of gallons of highly flammable materials continue to increase in the Northeast. County Executive McCoy first began outlining his concerns of the dangers of increased oil-by-rail traffic and the need for enhanced safety features in letters to federal officials dating back to September of 2014 during the peak of shipping from Midwestern states and Canada to the Northeast.

A report released in May of 2015 by the Expert Advisory Commission empaneled by County Executive McCoy supported his calls for greater safety precautions at the federal level, citing the United States Department of Transportation’s own study that predicted deadly oil train accidents are expected to occur on an average of ten times a year over the next twenty years. A special summit he hosted in June of that year with first responders and homeland security experts who have dealt with crude oil shipping derailments and spills gave county officials better insight on how best to respond to these disasters in light of so many high profile accidents seen across the country.

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Albany County ExecutiveDaniel P. McCoy