Protesters dress in hazmat suits at Capitol in Albany, NY

Repost from The Albany Times Union, Capitol Confidential

Environmentalists decry ‘death trains’

 April 15, 2014 by Rick Karlin, Capitol bureau
(Rick Karlin/Times Union)

It sounded a bit like a rehearsal with lots of run-throughs of songs Tuesday, but environmentalists concerned about all the oil trains going to the Port of Albany, along with the possibility of more to come, say they’ll  be back later this month when the Legislature is in session.

As well as singing some protest songs, members of Environmental Advocates and People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) donned hazmat suits as part of their plea for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give close scrutiny to a proposal by Global Partners to build a plant at the Port of Albany that would possibly serve to heat and thin tar sands oil from Canada that might eventually be shipped to the city by train and then via barge down the Hudson.

Currently, the port is handling oil that is fracked in the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota. Environmentalists are upset over the potential dangers of the tankers of oil coming by train. Shipping tar sands oil would add ecological insult to injury they say, due to the higher potential greenhouse gas emissions of that relatively dirty fossil fuel.

“This is Governor Cuomo’s Keystone moment,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, referring to the proposed Keystone pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Here is EA’s release and some video from our photographer Cindy Shultz, of the gathering:

Local residents and environmental leaders led a Capitol protest today calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to reject the oil industry’s plans to turn New York State into a “virtual Keystone pipeline” for Canadian tar sands oil.

A letter to Governor Cuomo from national environmental figures Bill McKibben (, Margie Alt (Environment America), Michael Brune (Sierra Club), and Larry Schweiger (National Wildlife Federation) was released noting the Cuomo Administration’s approval of any crude oil heating facility in New York State would have national and global environmental and public health implications. Such approval would also significantly increase the extraction and distribution of some of the world’s dirtiest and most dangerous crude. Protesters also dressed in hazardous waste material (hazmat) suits to draw attention to the oil industry’s idea of 21st century economic development: spill cleanup.

The letter can be found online.

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York said, “This is Governor Cuomo’s keystone moment. For two years under the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) watch, the oil industry has laid the groundwork to turn New York into a primary route to market for some of the dirtiest and most dangerous oil on earth. Nationwide, eyes are watching the Governor, because of the destruction tar sands would have on our climate. We thank our national partners for impressing upon the Governor that New Yorkers need him to move beyond rhetoric and act to protect our environment and public health.”

Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club said, “With the numerous recent disasters involving shipping crude oil by rail, it’s obvious that rail is not the answer. And with pipeline tragedies like the ones on the Kalamazoo River and in Mayflower, AR it’s clear that pipelines aren’t the answer either. Ultimately, the only real way to protect public health and safety is to leave dirty fossil fuels in the ground and move as quickly as possible to clean energy like wind and solar.”

Sandy Steubing of People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) said, “The public doesn’t care about regulatory jurisdictions. We do care that the transportation of volatile Bakken crude threatens our basic health and safety needs.”

Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson said, “Governor Andrew Cuomo has provided outstanding leadership in forging an economic development strategy for the Hudson Valley that builds on the strength of the river as the centerpiece of the regional economy. The Department of Environmental Conservation should follow the governor’s lead in safeguarding the natural and economic assets of the Hudson Valley by requiring a full and exhaustive review of the Global Companies’ proposed facilities in Albany and New Windsor with a special focus on the potentially devastating impacts of an accident or spill on the people, communities and natural treasures of the Valley.”

Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity said, “Oil trains in New York have become virtual pipelines, with all the threats of actual pipelines, like Keystone XL. But in the case of oil trains it was pretty much anything goes until they started blowing up and killing people. Now, it’s time for government to act, and for human safety and the environment to come first, which is the way it should have been to start. “