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Schneiderman Calls For Cut In Danger From Crude Oil Shipped By Rail

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Photo Credit: Jessica Glenza

ORANGETOWN, N.Y. -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called on the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to close a loophole that currently allows highly flammable crude oil to be shipped by rail through communities in New York and across the country, according to a release.

The federal agency regulates the transportation of hazardous materials.

The Attorney General filed a petition for rulemaking to the administration that would require all crude oil transported by rail in the U.S. to achieve a vapor pressure – a key driver of the oil’s explosiveness and flammability – of less than 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi), the release says.

Despite several recent derailments of trains carrying crude that have resulted in explosions and uncontrollable fires – including the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec accident where a derailed train burst into flames, destroyed the downtown area, and killed 47 people – there is no federal limit on the vapor pressure of crude oil transported by rail, according to the release.

The attorney general’s petition argues that reducing crude oil vapor pressures to levels below 9.0 psi is not only practical, but is necessary for minimizing the risks and severity of accidents involving railroad tank cars.

"Recent catastrophic rail accidents send a clear warning that we need to do whatever we can to reduce the dangers that crude oil shipments pose to communities across New York State,” Schneiderman said.

Trains carrying crude oil traverse approximately 700 miles of the state, passing through such population centers as Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Plattsburgh, Saratoga Springs, Albany, Kingston and Newburgh, and within a few miles of New York City, the release says.

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