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NCPR News Staff: David Sommerstein

Reporter/ Producer
David Sommerstein, NCPR's roving St. Lawrence Valley/Fort Drum/Tug Hill reporter, began his career in radio, strangely enough, as a high school Spanish teacher in Buffalo. While drilling verb conjugations and teaching a love for Latino culture during the day, he sat in as a late night jazz and Latin DJ at Buffalo's NPR affiliate, WBFO. The radio bug bit, and David found his way to southern Colorado/northern New Mexico (the Taos/Santa Fe area) where he was Program Director, Music Director, Volunteer Coordinator, and "Just About Anything Else You Can Think Of" Director at NPR affiliate KRZA.

Since joining NCPR's news department, David has reported from the chilly deck of a St. Lawrence icebreaker, the power-chord filled stage of the High School Rock Band Festival, and the tense Albanian street market of post-war Kosovo with soldiers from Fort Drum. David also gets to fulfill his passion for music of all kinds when he spins world dance and groove music on editions of The Beat Authority. E-mail

Stories filed by David Sommerstein

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Putting in. What could go wrong? Photo: David Sommerstein
Putting in. What could go wrong? Photo: David Sommerstein

Early bird campers get the wilderness to themselves near Old Forge

Tent? Check. Marshmallows? Check. If you don't mind chilly dips in the water or black flies, early season camping is a great time to beat the crowds to the wilderness.  Go to full article
Republican Matt Doheny poses with Carol Enslow, left, and Chris Whitmarsh, two women who run the Am Vet post 11 Ladies Auxiliary Wednesday lunch. Photo: David Sommerstein
Republican Matt Doheny poses with Carol Enslow, left, and Chris Whitmarsh, two women who run the Am Vet post 11 Ladies Auxiliary Wednesday lunch. Photo: David Sommerstein

Doheny builds campaign for NY-21, one fish fry at a time

For the first time, the New York State primary will be on Tuesday, June 24, this year, months earlier than usual.

In the North Country's congressional district, it appears Democrat Aaron Woolf and the Green Party's Matt Funiciello will avoid primaries. The state board of elections invalidated the ballot petitions of both Democrat Stephen Burke and Green Party hopeful Donald Hassig. Burke continues to challenge the ruling.

But there will definitely be a Republican primary in the race to succeed retiring Congressman Bill Owens. And the early date is ratcheting up the pressure on candidates Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny when few voters are paying attention.  Go to full article
Several CSX trains carrying crude oil derailed and exploded last week in Lynchburg, VA. Photo: Elyssa Ezmirly, used with permission
Several CSX trains carrying crude oil derailed and exploded last week in Lynchburg, VA. Photo: Elyssa Ezmirly, used with permission

Feds order disclosure of crude oil train shipments

Railroads will have to tell emergency responders when and where shipments of crude oil are traveling on the rails. That's according to a new order the U.S. Department of Transportation released yesterday.

The rule comes following a string of oil train spills and explosions dating back to last summer's deadly blast in Quebec. The latest occurred last week in Lynchburg, Virginia. The DOT is also "strongly urging" oil companies to pull the most dangerous tanker cars off the rails as soon as possible.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer praised DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx's order yesterday. "A week ago, I asked the secretary to implement this rule," Schumer said by video release, "because the number of tanker cars containing flammable crude oil that are going through our communities in upstate New York is on the dramatic increase and should, god forbid, one of those tank cars derail, it could create an explosion."

David Sommerstein joined Martha Foley to talk about the new rules.  Go to full article
Tanker cars outside the depot in the village of Port Henry. Photo: Brian Mann
Tanker cars outside the depot in the village of Port Henry. Photo: Brian Mann

Is the Champlain Valley vulnerable to an oil train spill?

Last year's deadly train explosion in Quebec put the potential dangers of so-called "oil trains" in the headlines. Trains now carry 160,000 barrels of crude oil from the Bakkan fields in North Dakota every day. Many of them roll through North Country towns on their way to refineries on the East Coast.

Much of the attention so far has focused on the human risk. But on Wednesday, another derailment and explosion in Lynchburg, Virginia, spilled thousands of gallons of crude into the James River, threatening clean water supplies and wildlife.

Green groups called it "a wake up call" to the environmental dangers of shipping crude oil by rail.

One of the rail lines for oil shipments in New York State runs right through the Champlain Valley, in some places just feet from Lake Champlain. About one hundred miles of track cut along the edge of the Adirondack Park.  Go to full article
Several CSX trains carrying crude oil derailed and exploded Wednesday in Lynchburg. Photo: Elyssa Ezmirly, used with permission
Several CSX trains carrying crude oil derailed and exploded Wednesday in Lynchburg. Photo: Elyssa Ezmirly, used with permission

Another oil train explosion; NY urges better train safety

Several CSX rail cars carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday afternoon. Authorities evacuated the area as plumes of black smoke filled the sky. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but there were reports of oil spilling into the James River.

The latest railroad accident involving crude oil came just hours after New York released a report saying the federal government is failing to keep rail towns safe and urging President Barack Obama to act.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomma/4906491235/">Thomas Marthinsen</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Thomas Marthinsen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

How Vermont is attacking heroin abuse with public health

This week, NCPR is looking at how New York is beginning to grapple with the heroin epidemic in rural areas like the North Country (more stories). We thought it would be helpful to see what a state that's ahead of New York is doing.

At the beginning of this year, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin broke with tradition in a very unusual way. Instead of previewing a broad agenda for the year in his State of the State address, he dedicated the 35-minute speech to one issue: heroin and opiate addiction.  Go to full article
Image: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County
Image: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County

Speed dating to bring fresh food to the table

You may have heard of "speed dating." It's a no-nonsense, fast, and fun way to meet a bunch of people and maybe find that certain someone. People sit across from one another, chat for five minutes, and see if there's a spark. Then they move on to the next potential match.

Farmers and chefs are searching for "eat local" love today in Watertown. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County is hosting a speed dating event at Jefferson Community College. The goal is to get more restaurants to put more local fruits and vegetables on their menus.  Go to full article
The byproduct of all these kegs of St. Lawrence Brewery beer has to go somewhere. Photo: David Sommerstein
The byproduct of all these kegs of St. Lawrence Brewery beer has to go somewhere. Photo: David Sommerstein

Brewers raise a glass to revised spent grains plan

Beer makers across the country are raising a glass, as the Food and Drug Administration is backing away from a plan to restrict what brewers do with beer's main byproduct.  Go to full article
Andrea Malik applies a BTI treatment by a beaver dam in Colton. Black fly eggs need running water to hatch, so they're an easy target. Photo: David Sommerstein
Andrea Malik applies a BTI treatment by a beaver dam in Colton. Black fly eggs need running water to hatch, so they're an easy target. Photo: David Sommerstein

Hate black flies? Hug this woman.

It's one of the cruelest fates dealt the North Country. The snow's gone. The warm sun's finally back. And just when we're dying to bask in spring, the black flies begin to swarm.

A couple dozen towns in the North Country try to take a stand. They treat thousands of miles of streams to kill the nasty, biting bugs. It's all done by hand, dozens of people slogging miles through the deep woods to deliver a bacteria that's fatal to black flies: Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTI.

One woman in St. Lawrence County has dedicated almost 30 years of her life to battling the black fly. David Sommerstein profiled her in 2007.  Go to full article
Architects' rendering of Old Snell and Congdon Halls. Image: Clarkson University
Architects' rendering of Old Snell and Congdon Halls. Image: Clarkson University

Potsdam takes baby step in historic building redevelopment

Clarkson University has picked two developers to give 100-year-old historic buildings in Potsdam a new life. The announcement is the latest step in turning Old Snell and Congdon Halls into a mix of upscale apartments and public space, including the home of two arts and culture groups.  Go to full article

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