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
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.