Local vigil planned for victims of Quebec oil train explosion

Times Union | May 28, 2014 | Column by Brian Nearing and Alysia Santo

Local event eyed for Quebec victims; McCoy firm on growth moratorium

Oil tankers in Kenwood Yard on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)


An Albany-based group working against ongoing crude oil train shipments into the Capital Region is working with a West Coast environmental group to hold a local vigil on the July 6 anniversary of a crude oil train explosion that killed 47 people in a small Quebec town last year.

Meanwhile, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, who issued a moratorium in March temporarily blocking expansion of Global Partners' oil tank farm at the Port of Albany, said Tuesday he hasn't heard from the company since it threatened to sue him.

Sandy Steubing, of People of Albany United for Safe Energy, said the group is working with not-for-profit Forest Ethics, which has offices in California and Washington state, as part of national efforts to commemorate the deaths at Lac-Megantic, a town near the Maine border about 160 miles east of Montreal.

A crude oil train that had been parked for the night near the town came loose and hurtled into its small downtown, where tanker cars carrying volatile Bakken crude from North Dakota — the kind of crude being shipped through Albany's port — derailed and exploded, destroying several blocks.

"We are planning a vigil to mark the deaths at Lac-Megantic," said Steubing. "We are still working on a location." The effort for vigils in the U.S. is also supported by 350.org, Oil Change International, the Sierra Club, and a local opposition group, Le Carre Bleu Lac-Megantic.

Local groups, including the Sierra Club, have been very involved in the movement against a proposed expansion of a crude oil terminal by Global Partners at Albany's port.

McCoy, following a meeting with the Times Union editorial board Tuesday, underscored his intentions to hold firm on a moratorium that he issued this March, pending a public health investigation by the Albany County Health Department.

"If Global works with us, then we'll be fine," said McCoy. "But if not, I'm not going to lift the moratorium."

McCoy said he may use seizure funds from the sheriff's office to fund additional public safety measures that either Global or the state doesn't fund — for example, air monitoring equipment.

McCoy recently appointed Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, as chairman of a committee working to coordinate a report on the transportation of crude oil through Albany County and the potential impact of a large-scale disaster.

In the U.S., crude oil train derailments and explosions have occurred in North Dakota, Alabama and Virginia. Four derailments have occurred in New York since last year, although none have resulted in fires, damage or injury.

"We are doing this because Lac-Megantic was the first explosion that was lethal," Steubing said about the planned vigil. "Although there have been some government responses, nothing has changed. We are still at jeopardy of having an explosion in our back yard."

Forest Ethics is involved in opposing the transport of crude oil by rail, and also is opposing U.S. involvement in exploitation of Canadian tar sands oil. The group also is working with Canadian groups opposed to the proposed construction of a pipeline in Canada to carry tar sands oil to the Pacific Coast in British Columbia.

The coalition has created a web page as a clearinghouse for potential events atwww.stopoiltrains.org. PAUSE has its website at http://www.pausenergy.org

[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.