The recent increase in domestic petrochemical industries coupled with the transportation of domestic crude oil by rail (specifically Bakken, Bitumen, and Diluted Bitumen (Dilbit)) in the U.S. has dramatically impacted the way that Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay plans for and responds to rail incidents within their Area of Responsibility (AOR). Their AOR has historically seen one Million Barrels Per Day (BPD) transported within their port; but currently, 588,000 BPD Bakken and 103,000 BPD Bitumen/Dilbit is refined each day at five nearby refineries which is transported via three different Class I rail companies throughout the AOR, calling for the area's new energy renaissance to be joined with proper contingency planning and updated response strategies. Increased investigation into these response strategies is critical in maintaining an effective and safe response posture throughout the eastern corridor through which this oil travels. To address this risk, Sector Delaware Bay completed a first of its kind, “Response to Rail Incidents Planning Project” to include a modified Comprehensive Ecological Risk Assessment (CERA) that is designed to articulate a process which incorporates rail incident planning into their most current Area Contingency Plan.
The Sector's Incident Management Division and Contingency Preparedness staffs leveraged support from their port partners and Area Committee to discuss, plan for, and respond to, these emerging threats. The project included the prioritization of critical rail/water nexus areas, and incorporating them into the Geographic Response Plan (GRP), by conducting site survey visits throughout the AOR, and then designating response strategies to be approved by the local Area Committee. This project, in conjunction with the CERA focused on identifying the major threat from the new domestic crude oil products and documenting best practices and response strategies with input from a very complex and extremely active tri-state region. This initiative has the potential to be the model for rail risk planning Coast Guard-wide, and the aim is to share the work and participate in the dialogue among the entire response community at the International Oil Spill Conference.