- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A coalition of environmental groups and city residents filed a legal petition on Tuesday seeking a ban on older model rail tanker cars carrying volatile crude oil from North Dakota to the Port of Albany, citing their history of rupturing and exploding in a series of catastrophic derailments.

The petition, filed by a group represented by Earthjustice, asks Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens to issue an order prohibiting receipt and storage of crude in DOT-111 tank cars at the port, which has become a hub for rail shipments of North Dakota’s Bakken crude bound for coastal refineries.

DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes said the federal government has sole authority over interstate commerce, “which absolutely prohibits the DEC commissioner from regulating rail transport through a summary abatement order.”

The petition argues that federal transportation law wouldn’t apply in this case because the abatement order would be against the two companies receiving the oil and transloading it onto Hudson River barges, not against the rail carriers.

Port facilities owned by Houston-based Buckeye Partners and Waltham, Massachusetts-based Global Partners receive crude shipped by CSX and Canadian Pacific railroads. The tanker cars are owned or leased by third-party customers.

The federal Department of Transportation has proposed gradually phasing out these cars and replacing them with newer designs that are less susceptible to rupture on impact. Earthjustice has a legal case against the government for an emergency ban on the older cars, saying the proposed phase-out will take too long.

To make the crude less explosive if a tanker is ruptured, North Dakota has proposed regulation changes that would require oil producers to remove volatile gases from Bakken crude before shipping it across the country by rail. On Tuesday, Martens and state Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald sent a letter to North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple supporting swift adoption of the regulations.

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