Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) are location-specific plans developed to provide guidance for oil spill responses throughout the United States. Until recently, the majority of crude oil transportation in the United States has occurred via waterways on oil tankers and barges, therefore, most existing GRPs focus on the protection of sensitive biological resources and socio-economic features in near shore environments. The recent development of crude oil extraction from the Bakken formation has resulted in a significant increase in the volume of crude oil being transported via railroads and pipelines and has highlighted the need for inland response planning.
Rail cars transporting the volatile and flammable Bakken crude oil now traverse more than 850 miles of New York State on two major Class 1 Railroads. In response, Executive Order 125 was issued by the governor directing state agencies to strengthen the state's preparedness for incidents involving crude oil transportation. New York State's (NYS) Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), 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 currently impacted by crude-by-rail transportation.
County steering committees were established consisting primarily of local first response agencies, as well as their state and federal partners. Utilizing Sensitive Resource Maps developed by DEC, coupled with the local steering committee input, location-specific response plans were drafted, reviewed, and set as final working “evergreen” documents, which are open for update/refinement at any time in the future.
The NYSDEC GRPs are similar to typical GRPs in that they are map-based, location-specific contingency plans that outline response strategies for the protection of sensitive resources. However, the NYSDEC GRPs differ from traditional GRPs in several ways. They extend contingency planning to cover spills on land, in addition to surface water-based spills. Due to the flammability of Bakken crude oil, much more emphasis is placed on the fire risks associated with a train derailment. This is done by mapping sensitive human receptors (e.g., schools, daycare centers, assisted living centers, etc.), critical infrastructure, and identifying fire (and vapor) suppression assets. The NYSDEC GRPs also place more emphasis on the initial response options available to local first responders, options that can be implemented before other response assets may arrive on-scene (State, Federal, and RP). This presentation will discuss the development, structure, proposed implementation, training and exercises associated with this ongoing program.