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Crude Oil Trains a Public Safety & Pollution Risk for Adirondack Towns, Lake Champlain & Three Major Rivers

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 For more information:
John Sheehan
5i8-441-1340 cell
518-432-1770 ofc

For immediate release: Wednesday, April 9, 1014

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization has grave concerns about the safety of hundreds of oil tank rail cars moving through the park each day en route from North Dakota, via Canada, to the Port of Albany. 

The Adirondack Council called on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to closely examine the potential hazards to Adirondack Park communities and the Park’s priceless natural resources in the event of a derailment and/or spill.  It urged DEC to require detailed plans for preventing spills and for containing and cleaning up spills that might occur.

The Council also called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to halt the use of rail oil-tank cars known as model DOT-111, which pose a severe environmental and public safety risk from leakage in the event of a crash or derailment. They are being phased-out of use, but many are still in service. 

USDOT has the authority to ban their use, but has not acted.  Such cars were blamed for an explosion and fire in July that killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec, and contaminated water nearby. 

Crude oil traffic on U.S. rail roads has increased from 9,500 rail cars per year in 2008 to more than 400,000 rail cars annually in 2013, according to the Association of American Railroads.

An average of 120 cars per day is being shipped on Canadian Pacific Rail lines, which run through the Adirondack Park for roughly 100 miles from the Town of Peru in Clinton County south to the Town of Dresden in Washington County on their way to transfer facilities in Albany.

Photos of the major rail crossings and oil trains traveling on the rail next to Lake Champlain available at:

“We are very concerned about the crude oil shipments through the park by rail,” said Adirondack Council Deputy Director Diane W. Fish.  “Hundreds of rail cars per day are traveling the CP Rail tracks that pass through small Adirondack villages and hamlets such as Port Kent, Port Douglas, Willsboro, Whallonsburg, Westport, Port Henry, Crown Point and Putnam Station.  All of these small communities are assuming a substantial increased risk, without any hope of financial benefit from taking on that liability.

“Lake Champlain is also being placed at great risk, since the tracks in many locations are just a few feet of rocky shoreline from the edge of the water,” Fish explained.  “The tracks also cross the Ausable and Boquet rivers inside the Park, and the Saranac River just north of the Park.  All three flow into Lake Champlain.”

Not all, but many of the rail tanker cars in use now are DOT-111 cars that have been found to be unsafe for carrying fuel, due to their tendency to leak in an accident.

In addition to the immediate concerns for public safety and harm to the Adirondack Park’s pure waters, Fish said the use of Bakken crude for fuel would have negative long-term consequences for the Adirondack Park’s unique environment.

At least one refinery has sought permission to expand its operation by adding facilities to heat and transfer Canadian tar sands oil soon as well.

“The continued use of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota and the expected use of Canadian tar sands for fuel will only add to our worsening climate instability problems, from which we are already suffering in the form of major storms and flooding,” Fish said.  “Scientists advise that this is likely to accelerate overheating in our rapidly-warming atmosphere. 

“Sudden warming of the Adirondack Park is expected to hit hardest its boreal forests, which contain some of the rarest and most vulnerable plants and wildlife species in the state,” Fish explained.

The mountainous Adirondack Park is a transition zone between the temperate deciduous forests of the Mid-Atlantic/Appalachian region and the spruce/fir Boreal Forests of Canada.  It contains both types of forests, although Boreal Forests are expected to shrink northward and upslope as the climate warms.

The Adirondack Council is privately funded, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park.  The Council envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms, and vibrant rural communities.  The Council carries out its mission and vision through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.


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