railwayNew York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald said the Department will issue the maximum fine allowed under state law to Canadian Pacific Railroad  for failing to report, as required, the derailment of four tank cars carrying crude oil early Monday morning in Albany.

One hour reporting window

The four tank cars carrying crude derailed at about 4:30 a.m. Monday at Canadian Pacific’s Kenwood Rail Yard in the city of Albany. The derailed cars remained upright and no oil was spilled. The derailment was not reported to NYSDOT by Canadian Pacific until 9:16 a.m., nearly five hours after the incident occurred. Under New York State law, rail accidents involving freight trains carrying hazardous materials must be reported to NYSDOT within one hour of the accident. The maximum fine allowed per incident is $5,000.

Fine could be raised

A comprehensive crude oil transportation safety report released two weeks ago by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recommends advancing legislation that would raise the maximum fine to $25,000 per day. That report, authored by five state agencies — including NYSDOT — in accordance with an executive order the Governor issued in January, also urged swift federal action on four priority safety matters, including removing inadequate tank cars from service; strengthening and codifying voluntary industry safety measures to safeguard the transport of Bakken crude by rail; expediting the completion of environmental response plans to better protect the environment from oil spills; and developing classification and testing of Bakken and other petroleum products, which is critical to effective emergency response to disasters.

New regs for oil transport

“Governor Cuomo has stressed the need for the federal government to accelerate new regulations for the safe transport of oil, and directed NYSDOT to use every tool necessary to protect our communities,” said Commissioner McDonald. “These regulations are in place to ensure a proper response in order to preserve public safety and the environment, and we will hold rail companies accountable when they don’t comply.”

The four tank cars that derailed were part of a train with 31 tank cars and one locomotive. The cars were carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota. The tanks cars were not damaged; however, several wheels on the cars must be replaced because they contacted the ground. The cars have since been moved back onto the tracks.

Inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration and NYSDOT responded to the scene this morning to investigate the incident. The inspectors believe the derailment may have been caused by a broken switch point, which is a narrow piece of rail that is guided between switch positions enabling a train to move from one track to another.