Friday, June 27, 2014

Earthjustice Seeks Info On Routes Of Oil Trains

Rail accident in Lac Megantic, Quebec in 2013 (Wikimedia photo)The environmental organization Earthjustice is asking authorities to disclose the routes of trains that transport Bakken crude oil through New York State.

Earthjustice attorney Christopher Amato filed the freedom-of-information request Thursday with the state Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Management on behalf of several environmental groups, including Adirondack Wild and the Sierra Club.

Amato is seeking all records submitted by rail carriers regarding the oil-transport routes as well as any requests by the carriers to keep such records secret.

“It’s a public-safety issue as well as an environmental one,” Amato told Adirondack Almanack. “The public has a right to know when their health and safety is put at risk.”

Amato said Bakken crude is highly inflammable—“it’s sort of like gasoline”—and the tanker cars that transport it are susceptible to derailment and puncturing.

Last July, a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing forty-seven people and incinerating much of downtown. Since then there have been several other derailments. That latest occurred in April in Lynchburg, Virginia, where rail cars exploded after going off the tracks.

“A few of them fell into the James River, and the river caught fire,” said Amato, a former assistant commissioner for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Amato said the mayor didn’t know about the oil shipments passing through Lynchburg. In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered rail carriers to notify emergency responders about their oil shipments.

The Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine reported in its May-June issue that Canadian Pacific regularly transports Bakken crude through the Champlain Valley, sometimes within a few yards of Lake Champlain.

Peter Cutler, a spokesman for the state Department of Homeland Security, said another rail company, CSX, also transports oil through New York State. At this point, the department is not disclosing the routes and schedules of either carrier.

“Both have requested confidentiality on their shipping. That’s what we’re reviewing right now, and we expect to have a decision soon,” said Cutler, the department’s deputy commissioner for communications.

Cutler said the department expects to respond to Earthjustice’s freedom-of-information request next week. Also supporting the Earthjustice request are Environmental Advocates of New York, Riverkeeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, Waterkeeper Alliance, and People of Albany United for Safe Energy.

Photo from Wikimedia: Rail accident in Lac-Megantic.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

7 Responses

  1. Charlie S says:

    This crude oil being transported via rail along the eastern corridor of New York State is an accident waiting to happen.How do I know? I’m smart I’m futuristic.Spills are part of the business….the oil and gas business that is. Last year more than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil was spilled from rail cars in the US.That’s more than was spilled in almost the forty years prior. New York has some of the cleanest water in this country.It wont be that way for long the way things seem to be going.First fracking,now crude oil.At least we’re keeping the fracking at bay…..but for how long?

    When there’s a spill we’ll get over the shock and we’ll move on and the gas and oil people will do their business as usual. They’ll pay for the cleanup and they’ll tell us “The oil is gone.” Just like Obama when he said “the oil is gone” reference those many millions of gallons spilt into the Gulf a few years ago,months of oil gushing out into that beautiful body of water.That oil is not gone,it is on the bottom of the Gulf and surely damage is still being done,the effects of which future generations will feel more.

    Business as usual. Just like it’s all gone in Prince William Sound up there in Alaska from the Valdez incident many blue moons ago.Not! Poor birds!Poor fish! Poor marine mammals! They don’t stand a chance with the oil people who dont care one iota about our clean bodies of water,or the species that thrive within them.It’s all about the bottom line with them,them who see oil as more sacred than water. These are the same people who have our leaders on strings like puppets.Money will create puppets.

    I hope I’m wrong but I’m probably not.Time will tell. Surely time will tell.It always does.

  2. Paul says:

    I don’t really see a security issue with releasing this info? I am not sure what this group will do with it but what’s the big deal? I could be wrong.

  3. Charlie S says:

    Since 9-11 every thing is a security issue Paul.Wallah Homeland Security.You gotta watch every word you say,every move you make… Used to be you can take photos anywhere you want.Nowadays it a crime to take photos in certain places.I’ve been told more than twice “no photos allowed.” The land of the free they call this? Yet there’s cameras everywhere keeping an eye on us 24/7.

    The rail people are afraid some misfit is going to come along and secure an explosive device along their tracks and blow up some of them crude tankers.What a mess that would be.It’s a legitimate concern Paul.
    You can bet there’s more ominous reasons why they’re being so secretive also which I’d wager has something to do with economy.

  4. John L says:

    The alternative to shipping by rail…..pipelines of course. Say yes to Keystone XL…..oops too late, they’re (Canada) going to build a pipeline to ship oil to Japan. We snooze, we lose!

  5. Charlie S says:

    We are snoozing John. And we’re losing too! More and more we’re losing! You’re a ‘yes’ man I see.

    • John L says:

      Sorry Charlie, I’m not sure I get your drift (I’m not really very smart). But seriously, thanks for being interested enough to offer your opinion.

  6. Charlie S says:

    You’re welcome.

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