Tag Archives: Adirondacks

Adirondack rail line marketed for long-term storage of obsolete oil tankers

Repost from the Times Union, Albany NY

Adirondack rail line marketed for long-term storage of obsolete oil tankers

Environmentalists see Adirondacks ”graveyard”

By Brian Nearing, August 7, 2015 Updated 6:33 am
Oil train cars in the Port of Albany on Wednesday April 22, 2015 in Albany, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union) Photo: Michael P. Farrell
Oil train cars in the Port of Albany on Wednesday April 22, 2015 in Albany, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union) Photo: Michael P. Farrell

TAHAWUS — To the dismay of environmental groups, a railway company potentially is going to store hundreds of emptied-out crude oil tankers on its rail line in the Adirondacks.

The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad initially planned to use its tracks to haul rock from a mine in the High Peaks, but that has not panned out. Now, the owners see a new source of cash from storage of aging oil tankers that don’t meet current Canadian and proposed new U.S. safety standards, and will await either retrofitting or scrapping.

Parent company Iowa Pacific Holdings has already begun to market its line for tanker storage, but questions remain over whether state permits will be required. On Thursday, spokesmen for both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency said the situation was being “researched” and declined further comment.

Last month, Iowa Pacific Holdings President Ed Ellis told a panel of Warren County lawmakers that his company believes it needs no outside permission to begin storing the tankers along the Essex County portion of the line and was informing the county merely as a courtesy.

The 30-mile line, which runs from North Creek to near Tahawus in the High Peaks, is owned by Warren County in Warren and Saratoga counties, and leased by the railroad since 2010. The tracks in Essex County are owned by the railroad.

Ellis told county lawmakers that his company could store hundreds of tanker cars on a section of track in Essex County called the Sanford Lake line that runs along the Hudson and Boreas rivers.

He said the tankers would contain only oil residue and pose a “virtually non-existent” risk of explosion or fire. “We have been storing tanker cars on our line in Colorado for nine years without a problem,” Ellis said.

“This opens up a lot of profound questions,” said Roger Downs, conservation director of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, which in 2012 had unsuccessfully opposed a federal ruling to reopen the line, which had been closed since 1989, to freight traffic.

“We would hope that the Adirondack Park Agency and local authorities have some local control. We are completely opposed to this plan,” said Downs. Some 13 miles of track run through the forever-wild state Forest Preserve.

Peter Bauer, executive director of the conservation group Protect the Adirondacks, said jurisdiction over potential mass tanker storage was complex. “And no one can say how long those tankers might be there,” he added. “It could potentially be a railroad graveyard.”

Bauer also said the rail line runs through newly acquired state land that once belonged to the Finch Pruyn paper company. “Was this kind of use what the governor had in mind when he supported that purchase?” Bauer asked.

A call to Ellis’ office for comment was not returned. Last week, he said new and proposed regulations could shelve much of an 80,000-car tanker fleet and require that the tankers be stored for years while they await either retrofitting to meet tougher standards or are scrapped.

Canada just required tank cars must have double hulls to reduce the risk of explosions and fires in derailments. U.S. rules were also recently announced.

In addition to its Adirondack line, Iowa Pacific Holdings is also offering other rail lines in California, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon and Texas for tanker storage, according to the company website.

In 2012, Iowa Pacific purchased the rail line from NL Industries, which had stopped mining at Tahawus in the 1980s. Since then, the company has spent millions to replace rails and ties, rehabilitate track sidings and add rock ballast.

Iowa Pacific is a privately held, Chicago-based operator of nine U.S. railroads, manages two rail lines in the United Kingdom and runs other rail-related businesses.

Ellis told county lawmakers that the tanker car storage revenue in the Adirondacks could eventually be worth “seven figures” a year to the railroad.

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Map shows 100 schools along crude oil train tracks

Repost from WestfairOnline, White Plains, NY

Map shows 100 schools along crude oil train tracks

By: Mark Lungariello, December 01, 2014

On July 6, 2013, a train hauling more than 70 cars filled with volatile crude oil derailed in Quebec, Canada, after its engine caught fire and power to its air brakes was cut. Several DOT-111 oil tankers filled with crude mined from South Dakota’s Bakken Shale ignited, spilling oil and sending a fireball into the sky of the town of Lac-Mégantic that destroyed 30 buildings, according to reports.

Forty-seven people died. Several thousand more were evacuated while oil seeped into the soil and local waterways. The Quebec derailment and several other disasters have brought increased scrutiny on the transportation of crude oil by rail as the amount of oil mined domestically continues to multiply.

A map of schools in the Hudson Valley within a mile of crude oil train lines. (Click to go to interactive map page.)
A map of schools in the Hudson Valley within a mile of crude oil train lines. (Click to go to interactive map page.)

New maps from state environmental groups show there are more than 100 public and private K-12 schools within a mile of train lines used to transport crude oil through the region. Albany-based Healthy School Networks released the maps last month in partnership with a coalition of environmental and education activists.

“They are crossing from Buffalo through Rochester and from the upper reaches of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the Port of Albany, then down along the Hudson River,” Claire Barnett, executive director of Healthy Schools Network, said. “A catastrophic event, should it happen near an occupied school, could devastate a community for a generation or more.”

From 15 to 30 trains carrying crude out of South Dakota travel through the Hudson Valley region each week. Each train can haul dozens or as many as 100 oil cars, each that carry tens of thousands of gallons of the Bakken crude, which experts say is more volatile and unstable than other forms of oil. Oil is also transported by barge on waterways through the region and plans are in the gestation phase to begin transporting other types of crude through the area by rail as well.

The maps also included BOCES schools. Statewide, the maps identified 351 schools within one mile of train lines. In Monroe County alone, in the Rochester area, 63 schools were within the one-mile zone.

Environmental group Riverkeeper prepared an additional several maps depicting the potential impact area of local crude oil accidents based on the 300-yard blast radius and 1,100-yard evacuation zone from the Quebec derailment and a Casselton, N.D., derailment that spilled more than 400,000 gallons of crude.

“Based on the human consequences of these two accidents, it is clear that communities on both sides of the Hudson River could be impacted by a crude oil rail disaster,” said Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper’s Watershed Program director.

A CSX Corp. rail line runs from Albany to the state’s border with New Jersey. Land trust organization Scenic Hudson said that 47.7 miles of that track are within yards of the Hudson River. The group estimates the risk area in the event of a derailment would be more than 200,000 acres and include 100,000 households and six drinking water intakes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Emergency Response Guidebook recommends a half-mile evacuation zone for accidents involving rail cars with flammable liquids and a mile zone around any rail car filled with those materials if they are on fire.

Environmental groups are calling for state and federal government reforms. These include asking government officials to provide emergency planning aid to schools, reduce speed limits for crude oil trains and impose stricter regulations and inspections for deteriorating DOT-111 tankers. The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering stricter regulations of the cars, but environmental groups have said the proposed laws don’t go far enough.

The state has increased its inspection of cars in response to recent derailments, but oil industry experts look to continue to expand their processing capacities as the amount of crude mined through hydraulic fracturing surges. The amount of Bakken moving through the U.S. has risen from 9,500 rail carloads in 2008 to 415,000 rail carloads in 2013, according to the Department of Transportation.

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