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Improving New York’s response capabilities for crude oil transportation incidents

OBG helps create inland geographic response plans for all New York counties impacted by crude-by-rail transportation

Lyle Trumbull,

Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) are location-specific plans developed to provide guidance for oil spill responses throughout the U.S. 

Until recently, most crude oil transportation in the U.S. occurred via waterways on oil tankers, and as a result, most existing GRPs focus on the protection of sensitive biological habitats and socio-economic features in nearshore environments.

The recent development of crude oil extraction from the Bakken formation—200,000 square miles underlying North Dakota and Montana containing vast oil deposits—has resulted in a significant increase in the volume of crude oil being transported via railroads and pipelines, and highlighted the need for inland response planning.

In response to this increase in crude-by-rail transportation, the Governor of New York State (NYS) issued Executive Order 125 directing state agencies to strengthen the state’s preparedness for incidents involving crude oil transportation. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Services and Department of Health, are leading a multi-stakeholder effort to develop inland GRPs for the 21 NYS counties impacted by crude-by-rail transportation.

How are NYSDEC GRPs unique?

NYSDEC GRPs are like traditional GRPs—they are map-based, location-specific contingency plans outlining response strategies to protect sensitive resources. NYSDEC GRPs differ, however, in that they:

  • Extend contingency planning to cover spills on land, in addition to surface water-based spills
  • Focus on the fire risks associated with a train derailment, due to the flammability of Bakken crude oil
  • Emphasize the initial response options available to local first responders

Learn more about New York State's Inland Geographic Response Plans.

How has OBG supported this effort?

OBG has partnered with NYSDEC in its commitment to enhancing emergency preparedness and response capabilities for potential crude oil incidents in NYS. Since 2015, our team, with Gallagher Marine Systems, has worked with the NYSDEC and local stakeholders to develop a GRP for each of the 21 NYS counties impacted by crude-by-rail transportation.

Since 2015, a Geographic Response Plan (GRP), along with emergency response trailers, have been distributed to all 21 counties transporting crude oil by rail across New York State. 

In the program’s current phase, OBG is conducting classroom and field training for local first responders in each county. OBG also will continue to update each county’s plan over the next three years, supporting the NYSDEC’s goal to keep the geographic response plans evergreen

About Dr. Lyle Trumbull: Lyle Trumbull is an emergency response and risk assessment expert at OBG, and a practical ecologist with 32 years of experience in academics, government, industry, and consulting. Lyle has been the primary technical consultant on human health and ecological risk assessments for more than 30 clients and has participated in the Planning Section for more 30 drills and/or events. He was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation for his service in the Environmental Unit during the six-month response to the Athos I release and was responsible for permitting, booming strategies, and the development and initial management of the Natural Resource Advisor program during the MC 252 response. 

Lyle has presented on NYS inland GRPs at the 2017 International Oil Spill Conference and 2016 Annual CLEAN GULF Conference

Lyle Trumbull, PhD

Contributing authors: Kyle Kolwaite, Scott Stanton, and Pete Alberti