Press Releases

Adirondack Council Applauds State Move to Oust Rail Operator | DEC Urges Federal Surface Transportation Board to Keep Out Junk Oil Tankers

NORTH CREEK, N.Y. – The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization today applauded the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Attorney General’s office for their recently filed detailed environmental and historic report in support of an application to federal railroad regulators, which seeks to remove the Chicago-based operator of the line so the corridor will never again host junked oil tanker cars.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo’s team, the DEC and the Attorney General’s office lay out a detailed and persuasive case to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB),” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “We agree that the Forest Preserve is no place for junked oil tankers and hope the federal government removes Iowa Pacific from this line. There are lots of possible uses that don’t conflict with protection of the Forest Preserve and the Park’s wild rivers.”

The State of New York recently filed the environmental and historic report that is required as part of its adverse abandonment application asking the federal board to remove Iowa Pacific as the owner and operator of the line. In the report, the state and the DEC explain why the line’s use as an oil train junkyard threatens the Forest Preserve. It explains why the line was originally built to haul ore out of the mine at Tahawus, and how it is not likely to be needed to remove ore from the mine in the future.

Janeway said the report was part of the documentation needed to persuade the federal surface transportation board or STB that the line should be converted to a new use that is compatible with New York’s Constitutional protections for the Forest Preserve, while providing a benefit to the surrounding communities.

“The DEC notes in the report that rail line was built on the Forest Preserve to solve a World War II emergency need for the mineral ilmenite for the construction of ships, submarines and airplanes” said Janeway. “The mines are not needed and aren’t expected to reopen. There had been some discussion of using the line to haul waste rock from the mine site, but Iowa Pacific never found any customers.”

Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC of Chicago had been operating on the line, as well as the municipally owned lines to the south, under the name of the Saratoga-North Creek Rail Road. It removed most of its equipment and obsolete rail cars from the line this spring. The move came after the Adirondack Council, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli wrote to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, informing him that his company’s obsolete oil tankers were being stored on the Forest Preserve. Buffett also disapproved of their storage alongside rivers that are protected as part of the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers program. 

The DEC explains in the report that the state’s land-use control obligations for the Forest Preserve and for protected rivers would be better served by uses other than rail car storage, and also references the Wild Scenic and Recreational Rivers program.

“The DEC’s petition for abandonment doesn’t foreclose use of the rail line for other purposes in the future,” said Janeway. “We urge the state to take this process one step at a time. It makes sense for the DEC to talk with the surrounding communities and solicit ideas from the public before making a final decision about future uses of the rail corridor.”

Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities.

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action to ensure the legacy of the Adirondack Park is safeguarded for future generations. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

For more information:

John Sheehan
518-441-1340 cell
518-432-1770 office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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