Tag Archives: Hudson River

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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Video: Bomb Trains on the Hudson River

Repost from HudsonRiverAtRisk.com
[Editor:  Another excellent regional video about the potential for horrific environmental impacts due to crude by rail.  We are doing our best to guarantee that the marshlands, valleys, cities and towns of Northern California don't become the next Hudson River Valley, transporting billions of gallons of Bakken Crude every year.  - RS]

BOMB TRAINS ON THE HUDSON - BAKKEN SHALE COMES TO THE RIVER

By Jon Bowermaster, July 13, 2015

The sight of long trains made up of one hundred-plus black, cylindrical cars, rolling slowly through cities and towns across North America – often within yards of office buildings, hospitals and schools — has become commonplace.

Few who see them know that these sinister-looking cars carry a highly flammable mixture of gas and oil from the shale fields of North Dakota. At thirty thousand gallons per car, each of these trains carries more than three million gallons of highly flammable and toxic fuel, earning them the nickname “bomb trains.”

I see them on a daily basis in the Hudson Valley, whether stacked up four-deep alongside the thruway in Albany, crossing an aging trestle bridge in Kingston, rolling behind strip malls and health care facilities in Ulster, paralleling the very edge of the Hudson River. Several of the long, ominous-looking trains snake south from Albany to refineries in Philadelphia every day, crossing New Jersey, paralleling Manhattan.

And this oil/gas combo is not just moving by rail: Last year three billion gallons of crude that arrived in Albany by train from the North Dakota were offloaded to tanks and then barges to be shipped downriver. The very first tanker carrying crude oil ran aground, a dozen miles south of the Port of Albany; thankfully its interior hull was not breached.

The boom in this train traffic – in 2009 there were 9,000 of the black rail cars, today there are more than 500,000 – correlates directly with the boom in fracking of gas and oil across the U.S. Record amounts of both are being pulled out of the ground in the Dakotas, Colorado, Texas and thirty other states and needs to be delivered to refineries. Pipelines take time to build and often run into community resistance; since there are railways already leading in every direction the oil and gas industry has taken them over. In 2010, 55,000 barrels of crude oil were shipped by rail each day in the U.S.; today it is more than 1 million barrels … per day.

During the same period there’s been another corollary, a boom in horrific railway accidents resulting in derailments, spills, fires and explosions. Sometimes they occur near fragile wetlands (Aliceville, AL, November 2013); sometimes in neighborhoods where hundreds must be evacuated (Casselton, ND, December 2013); and sometimes in the middle of a town (Lac-Megantic, Quebec, July 2013, where 47 people were killed in a midnight derailment).

Since February 14 a half-dozen of these “bomb trains” have derailed and spilled or exploded, in Illinois, Ontario and West Virginia, leaving widespread destruction and environmental damage in their wake. A half-mile on either side of the tracks is considered within the “blast zone” when these fuel-laden trains crash. Increasingly they are mentioned as potential terrorist weapons.

bomb_train_accidents_2013-2015Efforts to regulate this explosion of shipping by rail has proven difficult. It seems that no one wants to accept the responsibility (or costs) of improving the safety of the cars, the tracks, the infrastructure they run over or the volatile fuel. On May 2 the Department of Transportation issued some new rules and regulations regarding the speed trains can travel at through communities, required updated and safer rail cars and more, but most of the proposed changes don’t take effect for many years. Environmental advocates are not hopeful for much quick change given the powerful lobbying efforts of the gas, oil and rail industries.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has previously said there was little the state could do to slow the traffic, but even he is concerned about the possibility of accident; last month the governor’s office issued a complaint after investigating train cars coming into Albany and citing 84 “defects.”

Opposition to new safety rules comes despite that the D.O.T. estimates that if this pace of shipping continues there will be fifteen major accidents every year and one of the enormity of Lac-Megantic (47 people killed) every two years.

“Even if new measures are adopted,” says Roger Downs, an Albany-based attorney with the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, “it still feels like a half-baked plan to address a wholly inappropriate way to move oil.”

 

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Blocking the Bomb Trains: Nationwide Protests On Lac-Megantic Anniversary

Repost from DeSmogBlog
[Editor:  See also video coverage of the Portland vigil on WMTW8 ABC TV.  – RS]

Blocking the Bomb Trains: Nationwide Protests On Lac-Megantic Anniversary

By Justin Mikulka, July 6, 2015 – 16:35

Portland Climate Action Coalition Blocks Rail Tracks on Anniversary of Lac Mégantic Disaster

It’s corporate greed versus the common good, whether it’s rail safety or climate change.”

Those were the words of Lowen Berman, a Portland activist involved in a blockade of oil train tracks to mark the second anniversary of the Lac-Megantic oil train disaster.

Berman and 60 other activists protested in Portland today as part of a national Oil Train Week of Protests led by 350.org and ForestEthics.

A Portland, OR, memorial to the 47 people incinerated by a bomb train in Lac Megantic. photo courtesy of Climate Action Coalition

Portland’s Climate Action Coalition sponsored the blockade at Arc Logistics for a memorial service on the two-year anniversary of the oil train derailment that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

While activists in Portland were protesting against the danger of bomb trains on the anniversary of the disaster in Lac-Megantic, activists in Lac-Megantic were also marching.

Emotions and politics are tied together in this, unfortunately,” Jonathan Santerre, an activist and founder of the Carré bleu Lac-Mégantic citizens’ group told the Montreal Gazette. “It’s shocking that after everything that happened, people’s lives still come second to money.”

Santerre has a point. As detailed on DeSmogBlog, the events in Lac-Megantic can be directly attributed to corporate cost cutting.

In Portland, the activists were blockading tracks where oil trains travel weekly through North Portland. The Climate Action Coalition is calling for an end to fossil fuel development and an immediate transition to a renewable energy.

At the same time, a new report by the Sightline Institute predicts that if all of the currently planned projects for oil-by-rail infrastructure in the Northwest are completed, they would require more than 100 loaded mile-long trains per week to traverse the Northwest’s railway system.

And residents along the tracks are becoming increasingly aware of the threats. In addition to the protests in Portland, activists were arrested in Benicia, California today protesting the oil trains.

In Albany, New York — the largest distribution hub on the East coast for oil trains, earning it the nickname Houston on the Hudson — there was another protest.

There is much to fear among residents living near the tracks within the blast zone, and you certainly don’t have to be an environmentalist to care about this public safety threat. Sadly, The Hill suggests that this whole week will be marked by protests by “greens.”

There is no doubt that there is increased awareness and efforts to try to protect the millions of people who live near the tracks carrying dangerous oil trains. However, as we wrote over a year ago here at DeSmog, the people of Lac-Megantic still want the executives at the top to be held accountable. As one local said at that time as they arrested the train engineer and other low level employees involved in the Lac-Megantic disaster, “It’s not them we want.”

With the new rail regulations doing little to protect people, and the CEOs of rail and oil companies supporting lawsuits challenging the new weak regulations, it is unlikely things will change. As the Portland activist said today, “It’s corporate greed versus the common good.”

Lac-Megantic is a stark example of how corporate greed is winning.

 

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