Two Years Later

Metroland | July 9, 2015 | Column by Ali Hibbs

Local activists call on New York officials to learn from lessons of Lac-Megantic

photo by Ali Hibbs

This Monday marked two years since the highly publicized, massive explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Forty-seven people died and a community was gutted when 62 cars carrying ultra-flammable Bakken crude oil derailed and ignited in a populated area. In remembrance of the tragedy, a group of activists rallied in front of the Governor’s Mansion in Albany on Monday afternoon and called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to halt the heavy flow of Bakken crude and other flammable fuels through the Port of Albany.

Holding onto signs that said “Ban the Bomb Trains,” activists hung photographs of the 47 people who lost their lives in Lac-Megantic and held a moment of silence before speakers began exhorting Cuomo to take the same firm stance on crude oil transportation in New York state that he has done on the practice of hydrofracking and make a commitment to moving to 100-percent renewable energy.

“Governor Cuomo, you have a moral imperative to take the climate seriously,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.

One speaker came dressed as a “water spirit” and enumerated a list of renewable energy sources that could replace crude oil and other fossil fuels that can poison water sources. “Water is life,” he said. “Life is sacred.”

There were musical performances. “What do we do with dirty tar sands?” sang local musician Terri Roben as she played guitar. “Leave it in the ground,” responded the crowd.

Dominick Calsolaro, a member of People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) and former Albany legislator, called for Cuomo and the New York Department of Conservation to ban the trains outright—which could be done by declaring the tanks an “imminent threat.” Following the North Dakota derailment in May, Calsolaro wrote directly to the governor and outgoing NYSDEC Commissioner Joe Martens asserting that “there is no way to evacuate the whole city of Albany and the additional 70,000 daily workers who commute to our capital city should one of these trains derail and catch fire in downtown Albany.”

Cuomo, who was in New York City on Monday, has given no indication that he is willing to implement an outright ban on the oil-toting trains, and Martens is expected to leave his position by the end of the month. There has been no indication of whom the governor intends to appoint as his successor.

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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.