Four Capital Region counties will be getting new emergency response trailers designed to help them deal with any incidents involving oil trains or oil spills, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
The trailers, one per county, will be provided at no cost to emergency responders in Schenectady, Saratoga, Montgomery and Albany counties. They have already begun arriving.
The specialized trailers are full of absorbent materials, booms and other equipment needed to fight an oil spill, whether it occurs on a regional rail line or on a highway.
“We’ll be able to deploy it to any kind of spill,” said Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Jeffrey T. Smith. “It should benefit every [fire] department.”
The 21 counties statewide that are receiving trailers all have railroad lines running through that have become major transportation routes for shipments of volatile North Dakota crude oil that is bound for the Port of Albany.
Another trailer will be located in the city of Albany itself, which has become a major hub in the national transportation of Bakken crude, which has proven to be more dangerous to transport than most oil due to a risk of explosion and fire.
The trailers are being provided to the counties by partnership of the state departments of environmental conservation and homeland security and emergency services.
In all, 24 trailers are being deployed along the state’s crude oil transportation corridors, Cuomo said. Among other places receiving trailers will be Washington, Essex and Clinton counties, where a rail line along Lake Champlain has become a major oil shipping route, raising concerns from environmental groups.
“Protecting public safety is our top priority and these new trailers will help ensure our first responders can respond swiftly and efficiently in any spill emergency,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Because of a number of derailment explosions in other states involving Bakken crude, Cuomo said the state has taken a series of aggressive actions to improve the safety and reliability of the practice, including distribution of the trailers.
The state has also begun an aggressive rail safety inspection program that has found flaws on many rail sections.
“This administration remains committed to enforcing the toughest possible standards, and we will continue working so that crude oil is transported safely across New York,” Cuomo said.
The new trailers are being strategically located along the oil train corridors, said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC will continue to work with federal and local partners to effectively mitigate risks posed by the transport of high volumes of crude oil,” he said.
Saratoga County received its trailer late last week, said county Emergency Services Director Carl Zeilman. It will be stored in the Milton area as a central location.
Zeilman said the county’s hazardous materials response team already knows how to use the equipment.
Now, fire departments along the CP Rail line running through the county can be trained on using the trailer over the next few months. CP Rail has already provided firefighters with special training, he added.
“It’s another added resource for the county’s vast array of tools,” Zeilman said.
Smith said Montgomery County’s trailer, scheduled to arrive today, will be stationed in Fonda, near the geographical center of the county.
“We want to keep it centrally located so it can go either east or west, and it will be with our other equipment,” Smith said. “Everything on it we have already, but [the trailer] will have more of it and it will be easily transported.
Montgomery County has more than 40 miles of CSX rail from St. Johnsville to Amsterdam, which Smith believes is the longest stretch of rail in one county in the state.
Despite what state officials said about increased safety, Smith wouldn’t say the trailer will ease his concerns about oil trains.
“It’s definitely a positive, but it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of an incident occurring with what’s being transported through the county,” he said.