For Immediate Release: April 14, 2016
Coalition Calls for Federal Ban of Oil Train Transport along Lake Champlain and Hudson River
Albany - More than 80 New York and Vermont organizations, businesses, legislators, mayors, and community leaders, including the cities of Plattsburgh and Burlington, are calling for an immediate federal legislatively imposed ban on dangerous crude oil transport by trains along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. Today, representative signatories of a letter addressed to New York and Vermont congressional and Senate members will gather in Plattsburgh near an area of Lake Champlain threatened by these dangerous oil trains to discuss this urgent threat which has skyrocketed in the last several years.
As the letter details, each week up to 30 million gallons of highly explosive crude oil originating from North Dakota and Canada rolls through New York communities along the western shores of Lake Champlain, often just feet from the lake itself. The rail line, which goes from Montreal to Albany, not only straddles Lake Champlain’s western shoreline, but crosses dozens of rivers, intersects 33 New York towns and cities, and ends at a port on the Hudson River in downtown Albany—only half a mile from New York’s Capitol Building.
“These bomb trains are all risk and no reward for the Lake Champlain and Hudson River region,” said Jim Murphy, Senior Counsel at National Wildlife Federation. “This area is known for its lakes and rivers, abundant wildlife, vibrant communities and natural beauty. It is unconscionable that we are putting those treasured assets at risk for oil trains we do not need.”
To make matters worse, much of the rail infrastructure is aging, including bridges that date between the Civil War era and the Eisenhower Administration. Little to no information is available on the condition of these aged bridges. From Albany, this crude is sent down the Hudson on barges where it is refined and consumed largely outside of the region.
Mayor Jim Calnon of the City of Plattsburgh stresses that, “Having profitable rail service is important to this area.” The Mayor underscores the fact that, “These specific trains provide no direct benefit to the communities they pass through, while presenting an almost incomprehensible liability.”
Unequivocally supporting a regional ban on oil train transport, Mayor Joanne Yepsen of Saratoga Springs made it clear that she, as the Mayor, will “stand with the Oil by Rail Campaign in urging our state and national representatives to adequately address these risks and protect our citizens who live along these transportation routes.”
The letter cites the extreme risks of this crude, which cannot be properly eliminated through safety updates, as the reason for needing a ban. The thinly lined cars that carry the oil and long trains present extreme spill and safety risks. Nowhere has this been more tragically demonstrated than in the July 2013 tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec where 47 people were killed and the downtown incinerated by a derailed train unit of 74 tankers carrying Bakken crude oil. Several other explosive accidents have also occurred recently, though fortunately not near a population center. Similar oil trains nearly twice the length of the one that was responsible for the Lac-Mégantic disaster are regularly carrying oil along the Lake, River, and through communities in our region.
“New Yorkers have seen a significant increase in dangerous oil by rail traffic in our communities in recent years, putting our safety and environment at great risk,” said Ashley Welsch, Clean Air and Energy Associate at Environmental Advocates of New York. “We strongly encourage federal officials to act within their authority to protect the communities and natural resources along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. A ban on moving crude oil in this corridor will help New York achieve its goal to move completely off of fossil fuels by 2050.”