In the News  Archive

Forum on Oil Trains Draw Standing Room Only Crowd

August 29, 2014

By Pat Bradley

Click HERE to listen.

It was standing room only in Plattsburgh’s city hall auditorium last night as officials presented information on oil trains traversing the region and the potential impact of accidents.

The forum was organized by the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Lake Champlain Committee to discuss the issues surrounding the increasing numbers of trains hauling volatile Bakken crude oil through the region. Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan says they wanted to raise awareness about the increased oil train traffic in the North Country more than a year after the oil train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people.

“We know that there is both an environmental risk hare and a risk to people’s lives. This gave us an opportunity to get the conversation going and maybe get some people involved in getting the situation changed. I know that we saw a train full of oil cars go by just a little after six o’clock right here at city hall. It was a pretty good indication of just how close this traffic is to everybody. Each one of those trains is carrying 3 million gallons of oil or more. So a spill would be a very big problem if it got out of control. We want to avoid any tragedy but we also didn’t want to whip people into a frenzy before we had a good sense of what really needed to be done.”

Panelists included the Essex and Clinton county Emergency Service directors, U.S. EPA Emergency and Remedial Response representatives, a sea grant Lake Champlain researcher and the founder of the Healthy Schools Network.

The dangers to schools have largely been ignored in the debate, according to Healthy Schools Network founder and executive director Claire Barnett. She explained that her organization has mapped schools within the danger zones along the rail route from Montreal to Albany and analyzed evacuation plans. “There are 75 public and private K-12 school facilities in the Capital region and the Adirondack North Country within one mile of the rail lines carrying crude oil. Thirty-five of those schools are within one-half mile. Schools do get emergency management planning grants. But we also have an example, Saratoga Springs Middle School a year or two ago, did a derailment evacuation drill but used the standard evacuation plan. So the children were marched under the rail pass, under the overpass, to the fire department. Well, if there had been a derailment you wouldn’t want to go under the railroad. You also probably wouldn’t want to go to the fire department because all the equipment is in motion. I think there’s a lot more work for New York State to do and there’s certainly a lot more work federally to do

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