More Oil Trains Would Increase Risk of Derailment in Essex County, Officials Say

Press -Republican | March 4, 2015 | Column by Lohr McKinstry

LEWIS — A new petroleum processing plant proposed for near Albany could double the number of oil-car trains passing through Essex and Clinton counties, according to emergency-services officials.

About 25 unit oil trains a week come through now, enroute to the Port of Albany, where the crude oil is offloaded and sent to refineries, Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said Tuesday.

He was speaking at a meeting of the Essex County Local Emergency Planning Committee, a consortium of representatives from fire, police, public health, transportation, industrial facilities, and state and local agencies, held at the County Public Safety Building in Lewis.

'DECREASED DEMAND'“We all recognize the fact (that) 120-car unit trains are coming down the Lake Champlain corridor,” Jaquish said. “There are 25 trains a week right now.”He said the company operating the Albany supply hub for the crude oil, Global Partners LP, has applied for permits to build an oil processing facility that would increase the number of unit trains to 50 a week. 

Global Partners wants to build several boilers that would heat crude oil before it is offloaded and shipped for refining.

“Demand for Bakken crude has decreased for the first time, and a lot of small fracking companies are going out of business," Jaquish said. "The big ones are still shipping.”
Jaquish said the question is not if there will be a derailment in the North Country, but when one will occur and where.
“There are places where a derailment could be catastrophic,” he said. “Westport has a railroad overpass; Port Henry has 1,300 people and two campgrounds next to the rails.”
The Village Champ RV Park and Campground and the Bulwagga Bay Town Campground, both in Port Henry, are located only a few hundred feet from railroad tracks.
County Hazardous Materials Coordinator James Curran said both campgrounds also have public beaches.
“You’ve got Griffith (Energy) right there, two beaches right there.”
Griffith Energy is a home-heating oil firm with storage tanks next to the railroad tracks at the Port Henry waterfront.
“There can be 400 campers there (at the two campgrounds),” Jaquish said. “Those people would virtually be cut off (by the tracks).”
He said they’d have Lake Champlain on one side and the derailed train on the other, so they’ve developed a contingency plan to evacuate campers by boat.
“There are evacuation plans for both campsites. It would be a bi-state operation.”
Once the plan was activated, a fleet of boats from Vermont and New York would descend on the campgrounds and take campers to safety.
Jaquish praised Canadian Pacific Railway officials for being very cooperative, offering continuing training to deal with oil-car derailments and having an ongoing track-maintenance program.
The Essex and Clinton emergency services offices have developed a multi-agency contingency plan for derailments, he said, that includes participation of local fire departments and emergency medical squads, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, State Department of Environmental Conservation, State Emergency Management Office and others.
“Oil trains are one of the biggest concerns we have right now,” Jaquish said. “We want to be as well-prepared and well-trained as we possibly can be.”

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More Oil Trains Would Increase Risk of Derailment in Essex County, Officials Say
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.