Governor Andrew Cuomo and Basil Segos, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a petition to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) arguing against continued use by Iowa Pacific Holdings for rail operations and storage of oil tanker railcars on the 30-mile Sanford Lake Railway, which runs from North Creek to the Tahawus Mine in Newcomb. The State is requesting immediate action.
Click here to read the petition.
The petition was prepared by the DEC with input from other state agencies. It was signed by the DEC Counsel. The petition makes the argument that the rail line must be abandoned due to the unique history of the Adirondack Park, sections that pass through the Forest Preserve and Article XIV protections under the State Constitution, and the State’s long history of conservation and environmental protection in the Adirondacks.
The petition argues that the particular history of the “Tahawus Branch” (Sanford Lake Railroad) precludes storage of railcars. The creation of that railroad was specifically for hauling minerals from the mine. The State argues the rail line was originally intended to facilitate the transportation of freight from the former mine owned and operated by NL Industries.” The State says that has not happened and that storage of rail cars violates the conditions that allowed Iowa Pacific to operate the rail line.
In the State’s press release it states: “DEC’s initial support for a freight line on the Tahawus Branch through the Forest Preserve was intended to provide an environmentally sound alternative to truck traffic, foster economic development, as well as recreational opportunities for snowmobile use. DEC never intended, nor agreed, that Iowa Pacific should turn this corridor in the pristine, forever wild wilderness of the Adirondack Park into a commercial disposal site.”
The State cites opposition of local governments to support its petition. In the petition the State formally rescinded its support in 2010-2012 for reopening the Sanford Lake line since it argues that Iowa Pacific has failed to use the rail line for hauling minerals from the mine and allowing a seasonal snowmobile trail. The State ends the petition with a series of motions seeking to compel a favorable decision from the STB.
The State also sent a letter to Iowa Pacific. In it the state informs the company of its petition with the STB, putting the company “on notice” of its plans to file an application with the STB seeking “adverse abandonment” of the Sanford Lake line.
Public opposition to this plan was fierce. Resolutions of opposition were passed by Essex and Warren Counties. Storage of oil tankers was widely opposed by environmental groups and the general public.
Photo: Tanker cars stored in the Adirondack Park.