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A train of oil tankers. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/11072040@N08/6184231577/">Russ Allison Loar</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
A train of oil tankers. Photo: Russ Allison Loar, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Local officials want more answers about rail-oil safety

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At a meeting this week in Elizabethtown, in Essex County, Canadian Pacific refused to disclose its emergency response plan in case of a major rail tanker disaster on its line in the Champlain Valley.

According to the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, CP spokesman Randy Marsh cited security concerns in declining to tell local government leaders and first responders about the company's response plan.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

They're not telling us what they're shipping. We don't know what's in it.
Marsh says Canadian Pacific does have an emergency response plan, describing it as as "an organic document" that is "modified over time." 

"I can't share that with you," Marsh added, according to the Press Republican, citing what he described as national security concerns.

Lac-Megantic burning on the first day after the rail car derailment sent fireballs and streams of burning oil coursing through the Quebec village. Photo: Surete du Quebec
Lac-Megantic burning on the first day after the rail car derailment sent fireballs and streams of burning oil coursing through the Quebec village. Photo: Surete du Quebec
Last summer, a train pulling DOT-111 cars full of crude oil from North Dakota exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 42 people. 

Meanwhile, local officials in Albany have put the brakes on expansion of a major new 63-acre oil processing facility on the Hudson River. 

The move comes amid growing concerns in New York about the shipment and processing of so-called Bakken crude oil.   

Albany County executive Dan McCoy has placed a moratorium on plans to expand a major oil processing facility at the port of Albany on the Hudson River.

Once constructed, the facility will be a major new destination for tanker trains passing through the North Country.  

A train in Casselton, North Dakota carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on Dec. 30, 2013. Photo: Ken Pawluk / Associated Press / latimes.com, via NTSB press release
A train in Casselton, North Dakota carrying crude oil derailed and exploded on Dec. 30, 2013. Photo: Ken Pawluk / Associated Press / latimes.com, via NTSB press release
Appearing on the public radio program Capital Pressroom, McCoy said the company developing the project, Global Partners, had refused to answer questions about safety and health risks. 

"They were hiding behind homeland security," he said.  "Global corporation is expanding, making more money and we're accepting all the risk."

A growing number of state and local officials in New York have called on oil companies and the rail industry to disclose more information about the shipment of more volatile crude.

McCoy says first responders have been left in the dark.  "They're not telling us what they're shipping.  We don't know what's in it," he complained.

CSX's upgraded and faster rail crossing passes right by dozens of houses in Canton. Photo: David Sommerstein.
CSX's upgraded and faster rail crossing passes right by dozens of houses in Canton. Photo: David Sommerstein.
McCoy says officials also want more information about the use of DOT-111 rail tankers to ship the oil.  Federal officials have concluded that the tankers are unsafe for shipping volatile crude oil.

McCoy complained that DOT-111s are still carrying oil through residential neighborhoods in his city.  "Senator Schumer said they're like missiles," he said, noting that they're close to people's homes.

"They're lined up 120 deep in their back yards, they can touch the tankers from their back fence.  It's scary." 

Senator Charles Schumer has urged the Obama administration to require a rapid phase-out of DOT-111 tanker cars.  

North Country congressman Bill Owens has also urged Federal officials to require slower transport speeds for the rail tankers.

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