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Local News

February 20, 2014

Rail exec takes issue with cargo disclosure calls

(Continued)

Greenberg said he could not confirm the report that local trains haul no crude. Asked if the company shares information with local fire departments and other first responders about hazardous cargo, Greenberg said it does in order to help them train and prepare for potential mishaps.

Kevin Ritton, the director of the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services, said the contents of what individual freight trains are carrying - known as manifests - are not shared in advance by the railroad with his agency. But he noted such documents would amount to “a very extensive list almost daily.”

Oneonta Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon said his department has developed protocols for responding to incidents involving trains, including examining placards on the cars that indicate what a particular container is carrying and asking for manifests from the train crew.

Firefighters are also trained in digesting information provided by Material Safety Data Sheets so that they an evaluate hazardous materials and determine what types of specific protective measures they will need to take when encountering such hazards.

“We have continuing education all the time and refresher courses,” Pidgeon said. The railroad personnel, he said, “have always been very responsive” in addressing any questions from the department.

One issue getting attention from railroad regulators in both the U.S. and Canada are older tanker cars seen as a weak link in the freight system. Harrison said in Calgary that these DOT-111 tanker cars should be phased out as they are “not equipped to haul these commodities.”

He attributed the slowness in replacing them with sturdier new cars to high costs, saying, “You know what it comes down to–and I hate to tell you this–(it’s) the almighty dollar: Who’s going to pay for this?”

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, is scheduled to appear in Cooperstown this afternoon with village Mayor Jeff Katz and Nathan Fenno, president of the New York Susquehanna and Western Railway (NYSW) for a press conference on rail safety.

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