Rep. Longhurst: Rail Safety Meeting Follow-Up

I was very pleased with the dialogue that was started at the rail safety meeting I hosted earlier this month. With over 150 members of the community in attendance, the panelists were able to answer a number of important questions from what exactly is being carried in the tanker trains to how often the rail crossing are being inspected. Importantly, the panelists were able to explain their roles in rail safety and show the multitude of state and county agencies and organizations that are involved in preventing, preparing for, and responding to emergencies. Additionally, residents were able to ask specific question to particular panelist at the end of the meeting.

I know that many people who are concerned about rail safety could not attend and that there are still plenty of questions to be answered. So, I want to keep the lines of communication open. I have included a few questions and answers below and will continue to post more over the coming months. If you have a specific question that you want answered, please email me at, and I will direct your question to the proper party.

Q &A

Who is liable for an accident?

I sponsored House Bill 32 which was signed into law in June. The legislation eliminated a monetary cap on the liability an owner or operator of crude oil tankers would face in case of an accident. Now the owner or operator of the tanker is fully liable for the costs of an accident. Before this law was passed, the state would be on the hook for any costs that exceeded the monetary limit set in the 1970s.

Is there a set route the trains take to get to the refinery?

All portions of the railroad owned and maintained by Norfolk Southern are utilized for railroad transportation and support operations. There are no established routes, but rather NSR exercises the ability to utilize the entire system, including the support and passing tracks to keep the freight delivery system fluid.

Is there a set schedule when trains are going by?

There is no set rail schedule for moving crude-oil to the refinery. Freight rail movements rely on moving pieces from across the country. These rail companies move freight 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Unlike passenger rail, the freight rail schedule is not regular but a fluid system that is always changing. The refinery has made sure that it does not move rail to the refinery in the morning when kids are trying to get to school.

What materials are being transported by rail to the Delaware City Refinery?

A high percentage of the crude oil refined at the Delaware City Refinery is sourced in North America and transported by train. A significant portion of this crude oil is from the Bakken fields in North Dakota. Bakken is a relatively light crude oil because it contains more propane, butane and other lighter materials than some other types of crude. Canadian crude oil is also shipped to the refinery, as well as liquefied petroleum gas/butane, which has been transported by rail since the refinery opened.

Are engineers and conductors subject to random drug testing?

Norfolk Southern Railroad has a robust drug and alcohol testing program that includes the following types of tests: pre-employment testing, testing following major accidents, testing following certain rule violations, and testing whenever there is reasonable suspicion of impairment or abuse. In addition, NSR conducts random testing of approximately 25% of their workforce each year. They also have drug and alcohol counselors, whom  employees can contact if they want help or they believe a co-worker may need help. In addition to testing for illegal drugs, NSR also requires their employees not to take certain types of potentially impairing over-the-counter medications, while the employees are at work or for approximately 4 hours before the start of work. Lastly, NSR periodically monitors employees’ off-duty conduct. If an employee is convicted for a DUI or for possession of illegal drugs, they take appropriate disciplinary measures.

Are the rail cars transporting crude oil safe?

Effective April 1, all railcars transporting Bakken crude oil to the Delaware City refinery will be the newer design, which exceed all federal requirements and ensure the safest transport of crude oil. The refinery has ordered 5,900 of these railcars, which feature thicker, more puncture-resistant shells, extra protective metal shields at the ends of rail cars, additional protections for the fittings on top, and enhanced pressure relief valves. The older railcars will be taken out of circulation.

What safety precautions are taken to ensure the safest transport of crude oil?

  • Effective March 25, all railroads will conduct additional track inspections on mainline routes used for transporting crude oil. 
  • All trains will be upgraded with new braking technology by April 1.
  • Railroads must begin using the Rail Corridor Risk Management System to assist with determining the safest and most secure routes for trains transporting crude oil no later than July 1.
  • Railroads must begin installing wayside wheel bearing detectors, if not currently in place, every 40 miles along tracks where trains carry crude oil cars by July 1.
  • Railroads committed $5 million to develop specialized crude-by-rail training and provide tuition assistance to help train an estimated 1,500 first responders in 2014.
  • Railroads are currently developing an inventory of emergency response resources and deployment plans, to be provided to the Department of Transportation and made available upon request to appropriate emergency response organizations.
  • In Delaware City, DNREC monitors for Sulfur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Soot/Particulate Matter 2.5, Volatile Organic Compounds, as well as wind speed and direction.



Below is the contact information for the panelists.





Sec. Lewis Schiliro


Dept. of Safety & Homeland Security

Lt. Matthew Cox


State Police

Sec. Collin O’Mara



Kevin Kille

Acting Operations Section Chief


Adam Weiser

Manager of Safety Officers and Programs


Gene Donaldson

TMC Operations Manager


Bob Perrine

Constructability Review Engineer


Dave Carpenter

Coordinator of Emergency Management

NCC Emergency Management

Capt. Quinton Watson


NCC Police

Larry Tan

Division Chief

NCC Paramedics

Richard J. Perillo

Fire Chief

Christiana Fire Company

Wally Poope

Deputy Fire Chief

Delaware City Fire Company

David Pidgeon

Public Relations Manager

Norfolk Southern Railroad Company

Bobby Bryd

Commissioner on SERC

Norfolk Southern Railroad Company

Jose Dominguez

Refinery Manager

Delaware City Refinery

Herman Seedorf

Senior VP Eastern Region Refining

PBF Energy