For Immediate Release: September 10, 2015
Video by Voorheesville Native Tells Concerns of Oil Trains in Small Towns
Lack of state and federal oversight of oil industry leaves local officials in a bind
Albany – Environmental Advocates of New York has released a video produced by Alana Fiera, a volunteer who worked with the organization this summer, to highlight the dangers of oil trains in small communities, and how local officials, such as those in Alana’s hometown of Voorheesville, are trying to keep people safe.
With a tremendous increase in crude oil coming through New York – a more than 4,000 percent increase in cars since 2009 – small towns all along the route are being placed in harm’s way with virtually no support from the industry or state or federal government. This video highlights these concerns and localizes the issue to help people understand the wide array of dangers their communities face, from lives lost to traffic collisions to possible contamination of local drinking water supplies.
View the video here.
Alana Fiero said, “I saw the increase in trains firsthand. In communities like Voorheesville, which was settled along the tracks, it’s impossible not to notice. But what surprised me was the sheer amount of oil cars coming through, the types of oil they are now carrying, and how little has been done by state and federal leaders despite repeated calls for action by local residents and officials.”
Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York said, “While New York is now part of the oil patch, that wasn’t always the case – which is why it’s easy to think the dangers exist somewhere else. As this video shows, they are right here, in our own backyards, alongside our schools, fire halls, and churches. The video focuses on Voorheesville, but these impacts and stories are what every community along the rails grapple with today.”
Steeped in a rich rail history (Voorheesville was named after railroad attorney Alonzo Voorhees), the village now sees an estimated 50-70 freight trains a day rolling through the center of town, according to the Voorheesville Quiet Zone Committee; each train can pull 100+ cars, and many of these trains are carrying highly volatile Bakken crude. Big Oil has taken advantage of lax state and federal regulations and has created a public health and safety crisis for communities. The opportunity for disaster is great – according to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, there will be an average of 10 oil train derailments per year over the next two decades, potentially causing billions in damages and placing lives at risk.
In 2013, 47 people lost their lives in Lac Megantic, Quebec, because an oil train derailed and exploded, leveling a section of downtown – and first responders have said that this could happen to upstate New York communities like Voorheesville. In fact, oil train derailments have become commonplace:
- In January 2014, an oil train derailed and hung precariously over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, PA.
- In April, 2014, an oil train derailed in Lynchburg, VA, spilling 30,000 gallons of oil into the James River.
- In February, 2015, 14 oil cars derailed and exploded in Mount Carbon, WV – the accident spilled oil into the Kanawha River and caused the evacuation of area residents. It also forced them to temporarily shut down two water treatment plants.
- In March, 2015, an oil train derailed and caught fire near Galena, Illinois.
- In May, 2015, six oil cars derailed and caught fire near the small town of Heimdal, ND, causing the evacuation of residents.
There have been six known oil train derailments in New York State since December, 2013, in Fort Montgomery, Kingston, Selkirk, Buffalo, West Nyack, and Cheektowaga.
The video includes remarks from Albany County Legislator Herbert W. Reilly, Voorheesville Mayor Robert Conway, Second Assistant Chief David Gannon of the Voorheesville Fire Department, and Steven Schreiber, Chairman of the Voorheesville Quiet Zone Committee. Additionally, there are remarks from Tim Pellerin of Rangeley, ME, who was a first responder in Lac Megantic, and who made a presentation on the dangers of oil trains in local communities in Albany earlier this year.
The video can be viewed here.