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Town reviews rail safety procedures

Bethlehem doesn’t issue resolution regarding trains transporting oil

— Although Bethlehem officials will continue to educate themselves on issues concerning the transportation of crude oil within Albany County and across the nation, they have decided to focus their efforts on increased safety training for the town’s fire and EMS personnel.

The Bethlehem Town Board had been weighing whether or not to issue a resolution, which would make it known they approved of further safety regulations when it came to transporting across the country. Late last month, 13 tank cars derailed at the Selkirk Rail Yard, but the cars remained upright and no crude oil was spilled. There were also no reported injuries.

“We decided not to do a resolution because one wasn’t needed,” said Supervisor John Clarkson. “I think there is a consensus between board members that the best thing the town can do is talk with state and national level officials and CSX to make sure emergency management plans and protocols are up to date and as good as we cam make them.”

Clarkson said in reality, a resolution by the board would have done little because trains and railroads are mostly regulated at the federal level. With the recent increase in derailments, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also called for additional inspections of rail tracks and cars throughout the state through an executive order.

Councilman Bill Reinhardt had begun attending meetings held in Albany after residents were concerned about the increased derailments and the possible plan to expand the crude oil that is processed at the Port of Albany. Reinhardt said he was concerned because much of the oil coming into Albany first must come through the Selkirk Rail Yard.

“I think that most of the attention has centered around the port and the environmental issues and risks to the city if there was an accident,” said Reinhardt. “But from my perspective, I wanted to know what the issues were for the town. I went for a drive around, and there are homes and industrial facilities very near the tracks in Selkirk, which would be affected if there was an accident.”

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