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Environmentalists push for oil train ban along Lake Champlain

Post Star
April 14, 2016

North Country environmental leaders will continue to push for a ban of potentially dangerous oil trains rolling along Lake Champlain.

“We will keep talking about this until the problem is solved,” Jim Murphy, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation Northeast Regional Center, said at a news conference Thursday. “It takes persistence.”

Murphy was joined by others at Macdonough Park across from Plattsburgh City Hall, overlooking the lake and nearby train trestle.

The group is pushing to get the federal government to issue a moratorium on trains carrying massive amounts of crude oil through the region, specifically along the lake.

The city of Plattsburgh passed a resolution on Feb. 25 asking the federal government for a ban — one of 80 municipalities in the Northeast to approve such a measure.

Pressing need
Murphy said the need to stop the trains is pressing, given that numerous accidents in recent years have caused death, destruction and lasting ecological damage.

The most notable disaster occurred in 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec, where a train derailment killed 47 people and polluted the water supply.

“The towns along this lake do not need to be the next Lac Megantic,” Murphy said. “The risk is too high. We need to use rail to move safe products, not harmful products.”

City Councilor Rachelle Armstrong (D-Ward 1), who sponsored the city’s resolution, said trains run through the area and city daily, which is a great concern.

“This is a pretty ominous problem we deal with on a daily basis in this corridor,” she said.

“This is a bold action that the city of Plattsburgh has taken, and that is what is needed of our municipalities to bring this to the attention of our (federal) leaders.”

‘Needs of all life’
Armstrong said damage caused by a derailment locally would be devastating on many levels.

“We need to weigh the human consequences if there was a derailment,” she said. “The needs of all life need to be the primary concern.”

John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council said the trains aren’t a good fit, not only for the lakeshore but for the Adirondack Park as well.

“I believe Congress would not think it’s a good idea to put lives at risk,” he said. “I hope the federal government takes our concerns seriously.”

‘Very real threat’
Lori Fisher, executive director of the Lake Champlain Committee, said the train cars are not fit to carry such large amounts of crude oil, and “it is not a matter of if, but when,” an accident will occur.

“This is a very real and existential threat to the lake today,” she said. “It is putting at risk our communities and our ecology.”
Pipeline transport

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said she would prefer oil be transported through pipelines such as the proposed Keystone Pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

“Congresswoman Stefanik supports common-sense regulations that would help make transporting crude oil safer but also believes we need to work to curtail the transportation of crude oil by above-ground trains in favor of safer methods,” Stefanik spokesman Thomas Flanagan told The Press-Republican.

“This is why she is a strong supporter of the Keystone Pipeline, and pipelines in general, as a safer alternative to moving crude oil than transporting by train through our North Country communities.”

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