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Schumer Makes Case For Boosting Rail Safety

Dave Lucas (WAMC)

Longtime rail safety advocate U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in Albany Monday to express his concern for New Yorkers who live and work in communities along rail freight lines.  With the accident in Quebec that killed 47 people still fresh, Schumer is pushing for new regulations governing tanker car safety.

The Democrat and state’s senior Senator notes oil and ethanol have been transported by train for years, but with increased supplies, oil companies find it more profitable to ship hazardous petroleum products by train.

Schumer referred to the recent tanker explosion that devastated a Canadian town, saying such tragedies don't happen every day, but he is concerned the frequency may increase with increased rail traffic upstate.

On September 7th, 1980 more than 100 firefighters braved a series of explosions and fires at the Port of Albany after a gasoline storage tank caught fire. More than a thousand South End residents were evacuated at the time.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings says the city, in the 21st century, is taking a proactive stance in preparing for any possible downtown disaster.  Schumer is calling on the Federal Railway Administration and Department of Transportation to require railroads to stop using or retrofit the standard DOT 111 tank car for moving petroleum products - he says those cars account for 69 percent of all tank cars. Schumer is hoping new regulations will head them in the direction of purchasing more modern pressurized tankers. He says the old cars can still be used for transport of less volatile liquids such as corn or canola oil.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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