Advocates call for crude oil train ban

CBS6 News | April 7, 2015 | Staff Report

ALBANY -- An Albany-based safe energy group is trying to put the breaks on crude oil trains and now they have the support of a Green Party presidential candidate.

About 44 trains hauling millions of gallons of crude oil barrel down the tracks in upstate New York each week and many of them pass right by Antoine Clegg's home.

"You got kids out here, you know, playing basketball and stuff. And it's dangerous. It's hazardous," Clegg said.

Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein made a stop in Albany to see the train sites first hand. She is joining the People of Albany United for Safe Energy, or PAUSE, in their push to halt crude oil trains all together.

"These are essentially weapons of mass destruction that have been regularly detonating every seven to 14 weeks," Stein said.

Stein and PAUSE are calling on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to declare these so-called "bomb trains" a clear and present danger to people as well as the state's natural resources. They also want the federal government to make the complete transition to renewable energy by 2030.

This all comes just one day after the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board announced the need for major improvements to rail cars carrying hazardous material. The NTSB is calling for increased thermal protection to prevent fires from spreading, among other changes, after an explosion in Canada killed 47 people.

Stein says that is not good enough.

"I think our first priority would be to make this a definitive step in the transition and not go there. Not enable these trains, which are not only dangerous to people in the communities but they're very dangerous to us as a climate," Stein said.

"There are too many variables involved and there's no margin for error. We've got crummy tracks, we've got decrepit bridges, we have the very volatile Bakken, we have very fragile tank-cars," PAUSE spokesperson Stacey Steubing said.

Meanwhile, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says he too would like an all-out ban of crude oil trains in the Albany area but he says he realizes stricter safety regulations may be more of a reality. He is just hoping the U.S. Department of Transportation will release those changes soon.

"We need to implement these changes yesterday and stop kicking the can down the road," McCoy said.

The state DEC says several measures were passed in the budget to improve response in the event of a spill and it will also no cost more money under the new budget to transport oil through New York.

In terms of safety regulation, the DEC says the ultimate decision is in the hands of the federal government.

CBS6 reached out to the federal DOT to ask them how they plan to proceed but we did not hear back in time for broadcast.
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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.