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Schumer calls for safer railcars to transport oil, ethanol

Tom Magnarelli/WRVO

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the Department of Transportation to retrofit or phase out a specific type of railway car that carries crude oil and ethanol. The DOT-111 is the same kind of tank car as those that derailed and exploded in July in a small town in Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying 40 buildings.

Schumer spoke in front of a rail bridge near Armory Square in downtown Syracuse on Tuesday, where he says around 200 cars of oil and 100 cars of ethanol pass by everyday due to an increase in domestic energy production in the U.S.

"It's good news that we're getting independent of foreign, particularly Arab, oil," Schumer said. "That will lower gas prices. That will change our foreign policy. But with the new use of railcars to carry oil, we have to make them safer."

Schumer told reporters these railcars should be either retrofitted or eliminated.

"First, there are new cars that are safer," Schumer said. "But second, to retrofit a car only costs $15,000. The cars are actually owned or leased long term by the oil companies. They're making a fortune on all this new oil, so it is a small price to ask them to pay."

Schumer said domestic oil production in the US has increased dramatically in the last few years creating a demand to ship it on railcars. The senator says he is working with Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx on the issue. If that is unsuccessful, Schumer said he would consider legislation.

The DOT-111 makes up about 70 percent of all North American tanker cars.