County, tenants urge ban

Times Union | July 15, 2014 | Column by Brian Nearing

More voices raised in petition against cars used to carry crude


Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy and the tenants' leader at the Ezra Prentice Homes in the South End added their voices Tuesday to a petition asking the federal government to ban the most-commonly-used railroad oil tanker cars used to haul Bakken crude.

The petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation, filed by environmental groupsSierra Club and ForestEthics, seeks a ban on the use of tankers called DOT-111s. There are more than 90,000 of these tankers currently used across the country, and many are hauling crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota.

Some of that oil is moving though New York state and the Capital Region on its way to the Port of Albany and gasoline refineries on the Eastern seaboard. The tanker cars have proved to be prone to rupture during derailments, which poses a risk of explosion and fire from the volatile crude.

A derailment and explosion in Quebec last year killed 47 people.

There have been other such fires when tankers derailed in North Dakota, Alabama and Virginia.

"The continued use of potentially unsafe DOT-111 train cars is a disaster waiting to happen. The people of Albany County are standing up today to ask the federal government take swift action to improve rail safety," McCoy said.

At the Port of Albany, dozens of the tankers are routinely parked near the Ezra Prentice Homes, a city-owned housing project on South Pearl Street that is home to several hundred people.

"These exploding oil trains are in our back yards, where our kids play," said Charlene Benton, president of the project's tenants association. "We're putting our children's and our neighbors' lives in jeopardy here. Over the last three years, we've seen a huge increase in the number of these dangerous oil trains coming through our community. Our community has organized against these oil trains because we don't want to be the site of another catastrophic disaster. We need a national emergency ban of these oil rail cars."

Canadian officials are moving to ban many DOT-111s immediately, which could shift more of the tankers to service in the U.S.

DOT is currently weighing new safety standards for oil tanker cars in the wake of the surge of Bakken crude flowing toward both coasts. Draft rules from DOT are currently under review by the Obama administration.

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that DOT-111s not be used to ship crude oil.

[email protected] • 518-454-5094 • @Bnearing10

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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.