With the amount of crude oil being moved via rail on the rise, officials and the public are increasingly worried about the safety of rail shipments and the possible effect on the environment resulting from oil spills. In a bid to urge regulators to consider implementing new safety rules, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens addressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a letter to the agency's Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Martens urged the regulator to update its contingency plan for handling oil spills, pointing out that the EPA was responsible for drawing up Inland Area Contingency Plans under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, according to the Associated Press. The need for an improved contingency plan is pressing, as more crude is being shipped from the Bakken shale through New York to refineries in the south, the letter pointed out.

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In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an urgent review of crude oil rail safety, with an emphasis on safety procedures and emergency response preparedness. State agencies are expected to publish the report from the review by the end of next month.

The EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears told the Associated Press that the federal agency would review the letter and would prepare a response to the commissioner's requests. The EPA is committed to increase protection and to enhance response efforts, so the recommendations will be taken into account, she said.