Press Releases

Adirondack Council Praises Raises Sen. Schumer's Intervention - Senator Urges Federal R.R. Regulators to Stop Oil Train Junkyard

For more information:
John F. Sheehan
518-441-1340 cell
518-432-1770 ext. 203

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sunday, January 21, 2018

MINERVA, N.Y. – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer sent a letter to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Friday urging regulators to stop a railroad from dumping derelict oil tank cars on the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

“Legitimate freight rail operations are an important part of our economy, but using an old rail line in the middle of a State Park to store outdated tanker cars is an unacceptable outcome and must be prohibited,” said Senator Schumer’s letter.  “This is unacceptable and the STB must use every power and authority it has to prevent the Saratoga and North Creek Railway from taking such an action.”

Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, which operates the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, had won the Senator’s support in 2011 when it proposed using the line between North Creek and Newcomb to haul away mine tailings (piles of leftover rock) from former iron mines in Newcomb.

The company instead said it was unable to find customers for the rock and started accepting obsolete oil tank cars for storage on the railroad.  President Ed Ellis said he would dump up to 2,000 of the cars on tracks that run through some of New York’s most fragile and scenic landscapes, alongside the wild and beautiful Boreas and Hudson rivers.

The Adirondack Forest Preserve is protected as “forever wild” by the NYS Constitution.  The Forest Preserve is also a National Landmark, deserving of federal protection.

“We are very grateful to Senator Schumer for this effort,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “As an early supporter of the railroad’s original plans to haul rock on this line, it matters that he is now asking the same regulators to stop the railroad from dumping oil tankers here.  As Senate Minority Leader, his opinion adds substantial weight to the formal complaint filed by New York State officials."

New York has invested tens of millions of dollars in purchasing new wilderness lands in this area over the past 20 years, in an effort to attract ecologically friendly tourism and preserve its unspoiled beauty.

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issue a cease-and-desist letter to Iowa Pacific, demanding that the junkyard be removed.  The State also filed a formal motion with the federal Surface Transportation Board as part of seeking a positive ruling on an adverse abandonment for the dead end spur above North Creek.  The state will also ask the board to evict Iowa Pacific from the rail corridor for failure to operate a rail road instead of a junkyard.

The Adirondack Council’s attorneys have been working behind the scenes with attorneys for the Governor’s office and the Attorney General’s office, the DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).  The Council applauds Senator Schumer and continues to applaud Governor Cuomo, Comptroller DiNapoli, Attorney General Schneiderman, the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, the Adirondack Park Agency, local elected officials, and more than 1,000 Adirondack Council citizen advocates who wrote to Warren Buffett or helped in other ways, as well as other environmental groups who have spoken up on this issue.

Adirondacks are National Treasure

New York’s Adirondack Park is one of the world’s largest and oldest parks.  It protects most of the wilderness and old-growth forest remaining in the Northeast.  Its Forest Preserve has been protected as “forever wild” by the state Constitution since 1894.  Although it is owned and administered by New York State, the entire 2.7-million-acre Adirondack Forest Preserve is further protected as a National Landmark.

The controversial junkyard is being assembled on a railroad that leads from the ski resort hamlet of North Creek to an early-19th Century iron mine 22 miles into the forest.  The railroad terminates between the Hudson and Opalescent rivers at the old Tahawus mine, on the edge of the park’s famous High Peaks Wilderness Area.

Several miles of the railroad cross the Forest Preserve.  They also cross the Upper Hudson River, and run along the Boreas River, both of which are protected as “Scenic” under the NYS Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Program.

In general, railroads are governed by federal transportation law.  However, the federal Surface Transportation Board has allowed states to enforce environmental regulations that are stricter than federal law as long as the action doesn’t prevent the lawful operation of a railroad or interfere with interstate commerce, Janeway explained.

The Adirondack Council and local residents had supported IPH’s previous plans to run a scenic passenger railroad and to haul mine tailings from the former mine site.  But the company has failed in those businesses.  It is instead renting space on the line to companies that pay to park derelict tankers until they can be refitted, repurposed or scrapped.

The Adirondack Council has called for a new positive use for this travel corridor into the heart of the Adirondacks that is environmentally protective, supportive of communities such as Minerva and Newcomb, and compatible with the wild forest character of the largest Park in the contiguous United States.

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 comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant, local communities. 

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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