ALBANY, N.Y (WTEN) — Just last month, a freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio left behind a 50 railcar wreckage. The train was carrying hazardous material which ignited after the accident, causing health concerns for those in the surrounding area. The accident is spurring state lawmakers to look at their own railroad safety laws. The cause of that derailment is still being confirmed. Last year in New York, lawmakers passed a bill that would require at minimum, a two-person crew to operate a freight train which was vetoed by Governor Hochul.
Her memo reads in part, “I recognize the importance of protecting the safety of those working in the railroad industry and of the general public, and believe existing federal regulations achieve those goals.” In response to this, sponsor of the bill and Chair of the Transportation Committee, Senator Tim Kennedy said, “Any roadblock like this is just further fuel to reexamine rail safety and standards and have deeper discussions with workers and experts about how we can bridge the significant gaps that persist.”
The issue may be that railway safety actually falls under the purview of the Federal Railway Administration and not state government, according to the Governor’s office. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the Governor put forth some good recommendations for the federal government to look into. “Improving brakes, improving the braking capacities of these trains, reducing train sizes these are some of the things that President Obama’s team was working on back in the mid 2000 teens. All those regulations reversed in the subsequent years, now we’re talking about getting back to those regulations because you know what regulations make sense,” said Seggos.
In looking at The NTSBs report on the Ohio derailment the word “crew” is mentioned five times, but it’s unclear how many people were working in the crew at the time of the accident. You can learn more about railroad safety and offer public comment by visiting railroads.dot.gov.