Press Releases

U.S.E.P.A. Responds to Adirondack Council's "Oil Trains" Alert with Action Plan Invitation to Participate

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Specific Spill-Response Plans for Environmentally Sensitive Areas Due by 2015

For more information:
John F. Sheehan
518-432-1770 (ofc)
518-441-1340 (cell)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Friday, May 23, 2014

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the Adirondack Park's largest environmental organization that it will complete a spill-response assessment statewide this summer for railroads carrying crude oil shipments, then develop site-specific action plans to better defend environmentally sensitive areas such as the Adirondack Park and Lake Champlain.

The EPA invited the Adirondack Council to participate in the planning effort. Click to read EPA letter to the Council.

"We are pleased that the EPA responded to our concerns with a plan to assess the risks and protect clean water, communities and sensitive wildlife habitat," said Adirondack Council Deputy Director Diane Fish. "The Adirondack Park hosts 100 miles of railroad that is being used to ship crude oil to refineries far south of here. We look forward to working with the EPA, state officials, local officials and the railroad to protect the Adirondack Park and its communities from harm."

The Adirondack Park is a 9,300-square-mile expanse of "Forever Wild" public Forest Preserve, commercial timberlands, farms and 130 small, rural communities surrounded by thousands of lakes and ponds and more than 30,000 miles of rivers, brooks and streams. It is the largest park in the contiguous United States and one of the oldest, created in 1892.

In April, the Adirondack Council sent a letter to the EPA requesting assistance in protecting the park from the kinds of crude oil spills that have plagued other communities where trains carrying crude oil have derailed.

One recent oil train spill in Virginia resulted in significant pollution in the James River, which caught fire. Another in Quebec claimed 47 lives.

Over the past few years, the volume of crude oil shipments through the Adirondack Park has risen sharply as oil companies ship North Dakota crude oil on the Canadian Pacific Rail Road. CP Rail owns the former Delaware & Hudson line, which follows the shoreline of Lake Champlain through the Adirondack Park.

"We look forward to working with the EPA, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and many local officials and first-responders on this important task," said Fish. "Our hope is that anything traveling by rail through the Adirondacks travels safely. But if there is a spill of some kind, we need to be prepared to act quickly to protect park residents and the environment."

Fish said EPA Regional Director of the Emergency & Remedial Response Division Walter Mugdan wrote that the agency "does not have regulatory authority over the transport of oil through rail," but he said EPA is "taking necessary steps to prepare for potential spills throughout the rail corridor in New York State."

Mugdan wrote that EPA would complete a plan to inspect 500 miles of CP Rail track this summer and draft a statewide plan for spill responses. That plan would be refined through public comment this fall. Then site-specific plans will be created in 2015, he noted in his letter to Fish.

"We invite the Adirondack Council to join us in this planning effort for those areas along the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain," Mugdan wrote.

The Adirondack Council is privately funded, not-for-profit organization that doesn't accept government grants or taxpayer-supported donations of any kind. The Adirondack Council's mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms, and vibrant rural communities. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

Click to view photos of the CP Rail line through the Adirondack Park.

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