Moratorium sought on 'bomb trains' in Albany after Lynchburg oil tanker fire

Times Union | May 1, 2014 | Column by Eric Anderson

Albany residents near railyards at port protest presence of tanker cars


A day after a CSX crude oil train derailed and burned in downtown Lynchburg, Va., opponents of the burgeoning oil traffic at the Port of Albany called for a moratorium on what some called "bomb trains."

People of Albany United for Safe Energy held a protest on Thursday at Ezra Prentice Homes, a public housing development adjacent to railyards holding hundreds of tanker cars.

"There have been five explosive derailments in nine months," said Sandy Steubing, one of the organizers of Thursday's event.

In the Lynchburg derailment, at least three cars burst into flames that shot as high as a 19-story building nearby, according to one account. Oil also spilled into the James River. No injuries were reported.

The latest accident came as the U.S. Department of Transportation was submitting a package of strengthened rules to the Office of Management and Budget. The rules haven't yet been made public.

The new DOT rules follow by a week tough new standards implemented by Canada.

Last July, 47 people died when a runaway oil train derailed in the center of Lac Megantic, Quebec, and exploded.

Global Partners, which operates a terminal at the Port of Albany, said that effective June 1 it would begin phasing in a requirement that all tank cars arriving at its facilities in Albany and its terminal in Clatskanie, Ore., meet the new tougher CPC-1232 tank car standards.

Canada included the standards in its new requirements, and the American Association of Railroads voluntarily adopted them in 2011 for new tanker cars, which now account for less than one-third of those in service.

Steubing of PAUSE questioned how quickly the phase-in would be completed.

"They're touting June 1st," she said. "They have no timeline for when they're going to finish."

PAUSE would rather see the discussion focus on ending dependence on fossil fuels entirely.

"The discussion should be how aggressively and quickly we can introduce renewable sources of energy," she said on Thursday afternoon. "Given climate change, it's a legitimate request."

Of the oil trains, she said, "we don't believe any upgrade to safe rail cars is possible... They need to go away."

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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.