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February 20, 2014

Rail exec takes issue with cargo disclosure calls

The head of the Canadian company that owns the Delaware and Hudson rail line through Otsego County has come out against proposals requiring the disclosure of the hazardous materials that freight trains carry on both sides of the US-Canadian border.

Hunter Harrison, the chief executive officer of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., made his comments this week in Calgary as both the U.S. and Canadian regulators scrutinize the increased shipment of crude oil and other hazardous cargo on on freight cars. A derailment in Quebec last year led to 47 deaths.

“There’s stuff we’re hauling, it’s coming right through your community and right by your door, and it’s a whole lot more dangerous than crude,” Harrison was quoted as saying in Canadian press accounts. 

He cited safety concerns as the reason for why the public should not be made aware of the specific hazardous materials being transported.

Freight rail companies are “common carriers” that are legally required to carry all types of cargo brought to the rail network by its shipper clients, Harrison said in contending tighter regulations are not needed.

He said the Quebec derailment was caused by a “human behavior issue” and asked: “What kind of regulations are you going to put in to stop that?”

Ed Greenberg, a Canadian spokesman, told The Daily Star that the freight tracks running through Oneonta and nearby communities, as well as all Canadian Pacific lines, are inspected both visually and by computerized devices programmed to detect any irregularities.

“First and foremost, at Canadian Pacific, we have a rigorous safety inspection system in place to ensure that safety is embedded in everything we do,” Greenberg said. 

The company has been installing track-side warning devices as an additional step to enhance safety, he said.

Ellen Pope, director of Otsego 2000, said she was advised by another Canadian Pacific official that no crude oil is being carried by rail through Otsego County communities, and that the crude oil being transported into New York goes from Quebec to the Port of Albany. Pope said she is advocating for greater disclosure of the materials being hauled by trains so first responders can be prepared and to contain spills that could contaminate water supplies and the Susquehanna River.

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