News > News > Preserve River Ecology > Crude Oil Transport > Hudson River Groups Warn New Crude Oil Regulations Still Leave Public and River at Risk

Hudson River Groups Warn New Crude Oil Regulations Still Leave Public and River at Risk

May 1, 2015

Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson, 845 473 4440, ext. 210, [email protected]
Cliff Weathers, Riverkeeper, 917 202 6854, [email protected]
Tina Posterli, Waterkeeper Alliance, 516 526 9371, [email protected]

HUDSON VALLEY, NY – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released regulations today outlining new requirements for the design of tanker cars as well as other actions intended to improve the safety of shipping volatile Bakken crude oil by rail. However, while the actions appear to require a higher level of safety—calling for eventual braking upgrades and reduced speed limits in certain areas—leading Hudson River advocacy groups remain very concerned that the new rules allow the most common and dangerous rail tanker car (DOT-111s) to remain in use for an extended timeframe. The environmental groups also pointed out that the new federal protocols fail to address any of the dangers posed by shipping heavy Canadian tar sands crude by rail—an emerging threat in the Hudson River Valley.

The environmental groups highlighted that deficient DOT-111 rail cars could remain in use for up to 10 years and could carry volatile Bakken crude oil for another five years. This means that communities and natural resources will remain at risk for a decade. Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson and the Waterkeeper Alliance assert that this is unacceptable and that the new standards need to be implemented immediately so that dangerous rail cars are taken out of service.

While the environmental groups commend DOT for selecting an upgraded rail car design, trains carrying fewer than 20 cars of flammable liquid in a continuous grouping or up to 35 rail cars with flammable liquid dispersed through a train could continue to use the inadequate DOT-111 rail cars. This ignores the fact that almost all recent crude oil accidents that cost lives and caused catastrophic damage involve fewer than 10 tanker cars.

None of the new safety protocols takes into account the value of sensitive and unique environmental resources such as the Hudson River. The restricted speed limits only apply to high-threat urban areas, which in New York State pertains to just New York City and Buffalo. No robust re-routing analysis is required despite the heavily-populated communities and irreplaceable resources in the Hudson River Valley that will remain vulnerable to the possibility of great injury and costly damages.

“The dramatic spike in the volume of crude oil being transported down the Hudson River makes our communities and natural resources far more vulnerable to serious accidents. A crude oil spill into the Hudson River would be catastrophic for the public health and environmental health of our region,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “The federal government working with states and local governments has the responsibility to create a system of regulations, inspections and emergency response procedures to protect our communities and Hudson River. We need much stronger action—particularly in eliminating loopholes through which the regulations fail to cover tar sands crude transport or trains with fewer than 20 cars of crude. These rules fall far short of meeting those needs.”

“This rule leaves our river and our Hudson Valley communities at risk of catastrophe every day,” said Sean Dixon, Riverkeeper Staff Attorney. “It allows the most dangerous tank cars to continue hauling toxic crude oil alongside the Hudson River for years to come. Its speed restrictions won’t apply to Hudson Valley communities like Albany, Kingston, Newburgh or West Nyack. And so many proven hazards of shipping crude oil by rail – human error, rail and bridge infrastructure problems and outdated spill response planning – are left unaddressed. While acknowledging the “growing risk”, the top federal regulator has prioritized industry demands over public safety,” Dixon said. “This is irresponsible and unacceptable. We need an immediate ban on the use of these defective and dangerous rail cars to ship toxic crude before the next catastrophic spill or explosion happens in one of our communities.”

“Our federal officials continue to endanger the safety of our communities, our waterways and our drinking water by failing to put effective regulations in place for the transport of volatile crude oil,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Leaving these explosive oil trains on the rails for years to come means more derailments, spills and explosions will happen, and demonstrates that the government prioritizes corporate greed over the protection of the public and our waterways.”

Billions of gallons of crude oil moving through neighborhoods and city centers

For more than a year, river groups, communities, elected officials and hundreds of ordinary citizens have been working together to put a stop to the transport of up to 6.3 billion gallons of crude oil traveling through the Hudson Valley every year. Our neighborhoods, our city centers and our most important natural resources lie directly beside this accident-prone “virtual pipeline” made up of trains, barges and ships. Without tougher regulations and stronger mitigation plans put in place, the shipment of volatile crude and heavy tar sands remains the gravest threat to the Hudson River in a generation.
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About Riverkeeper
Riverkeeper is a member-supported, watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

About Scenic Hudson
Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved more than 35,000 acres.

About Waterkeeper Alliance
Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 250 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect more than 2 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. For more information please visit:

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