In the News  Archive

Opinion: A Junkyard in the Adirondacks

The New York Times - Opinion Pages
September 18, 2015

By Eleanor Randolph

After deadly and destructive explosions of oil tank cars in recent years, the federal government began requiring new, somewhat safer tankers to carry the explosive Bakken crude oil across the country. Let’s hope that this is progress. The problem now for those who transport this highly-combustible oil is what to do with the big outdated tankers.

One company has what is perhaps the worst suggestion yet: They want to dump about 500 of these particularly ugly containers in the Adirondack Park.

The Adirondack Council, which works to protect the 6.1 million acres in the nation’s largest state park, has appealed to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to ban the dumping. As the Council has noted, the proposal by Iowa Pacific Holdings and the Saratoga & North Creek Railway to store mounds of these large black cylinders in an area called Tahawus, along a rarely used railroad line, could degrade the experience of visitors and, worse, contaminate the Hudson River.

A company representative making his pitch to officials in Warren County recently acknowledged that the company couldn’t inspect each huge container to determine whether any of the crude oil was still in it. One possibility would be simply opening the bottom of the container and letting the oil drain out. How convenient for the company; how inconvenient for anybody who wants to stop these people from turning the park into a disgusting sump.

As William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, wrote in his letter to Governor Cuomo earlier this month, “Contrast in your mind’s eye the experience of paddling down the Hudson, Opalescent or Boreas rivers this August with the same paddling trip next summer. Instead of a beautiful river landscape, visitors to the region next year will paddle alongside rusting oil tankers stacked end to end anywhere the rail line runs close to the river.”

This once-industrial patch in the Adirondack North Country has been slowly transformed into a popular tourist area in the park. It is close to Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in the Adirondacks, and the mountain trail where Teddy Roosevelt learned in 1901 that he was about to succeed the dying President William McKinley.

The Cuomo administration has promised to evaluate the legal and environmental implications of junking the oil tank cars in this area. “Storing tank cars on tracks in the Forest Preserve is concerning and presents unique issues,” environmental and transportation officials said in a statement this week.

One solution might be for the state to help purchase the rail line. Better yet, the railroad officials can find far more suitable dumping grounds somewhere else.

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