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Broad Coalition of Groups Call On Governor Cuomo To Ban Exploding Oil Trains

Seek State DEC order prohibiting explosive crude oil trains
The Port of Albany.

The Port of Albany.

Photo courtesy of Andy Arthur
October 21, 2014
Albany, NY —

A coalition of local residents, environmental groups and a church today filed a legal petition requesting the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to issue an order prohibiting the receipt and storage of explosive Bakken crude oil in outdated and dangerous DOT-111 tank cars at the Port of Albany. The filing is in conjunction with a large public rally in front of the DEC headquarters at 625 Broadway in Albany at 11:30 a.m. protesting the continued presence of crude oil trains in Albany.

New York’s Environmental Conservation Law grants the DEC Commissioner broad authority to order the discontinuance of any activity he determines presents an imminent danger to the health or welfare of the people of the state or is likely to result in irreversible or irreparable damage to natural resources. The petition cites to overwhelming evidence that using DOT-111 tank cars to store or move highly volatile Bakken crude oil poses a significant risk to public safety and environment. The petition was filed by Earthjustice, on behalf of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Center for Biological Diversity, People of Albany United for Safe Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Advocates of New York, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, and Greater St. John’s Church of God in Christ.

Earthjustice attorney Christopher Amato stated, “This petition makes clear that DEC has the authority to act now to protect the people of Albany and our precious natural resources from this dangerous activity. The use of DOT-111 tank cars for moving Bakken crude oil has been recognized by federal and state agencies and the government of Canada to pose a significant threat to public safety and the environment. There is simply no excuse for DEC to continue to allow DOT-111 tank cars to cart Bakken crude into Albany. It is time for the Cuomo Administration to stop waiting for the federal government to come to the rescue on this issue.”

Former Albany Council member Dominick Calsolaro stated, "Knowing that the transport of crude oil-by-train is unsafe due to inadequate and unsafe rail cars plus the deficiencies in the rails, the Governor and the appropriate State agencies must take immediate action and prohibit the transport of crude oil by rail in New York State.”

Former DEC Legislative Counsel Susan Weber declared, "New Yorkers are waiting for the DEC to do its job to protect the environment and public health from the on-going menace of these bomb trains.  It is not speculation that they are an imminent hazard. The bomb trains are a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Reverend Marc Johnson of Greater St. John’s Church of God in Christ comments on the larger picture: “The oil trains should be viewed as a social and immoral injustice. Placing our neighborhood and community in the role of "sacrificial lamb," in the event of a chemical accident is unconscionable.

Sandy Steubing, spokesperson for People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) said, “By prohibiting the receipt and storage of crude oil at the Port of Albany, the Governor and Commissioner could send a strong message to the rest of the nation that the transportation of fossil fuels is too hazardous and the time to switch to renewable sources of energy is now. Will they make decisions appropriate to the 21st century or will they continue with business as usual?”

Roger Downs, conservation director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, "There is no question that the State of NY possesses broad powers under the Environmental Conservation Law to stop the potentially hazardous flow of Bakken crude-by-rail through the Port of Albany. What remains unclear is whether Governor Andrew Cuomo has the political will to put the health and safety of New Yorkers ahead of the demands of big oil companies."

Senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity Mollie Matteson said, "The people of Albany have everything to lose, including their health and safety, and nothing to gain, from the continued shipment of volatile Bakken crude to their city. At the end of the day, the question is: Do people and the places they live matter more than the bottom line of a Fortune 500 company?"

Charlene Benton, president of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association, said, “Today we are asking Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Martens to use their authority to protect the people of Albany from these dangerous oil trains.The families living at Ezra Prentice Homes live within a few feet of these bomb trains. Our families deserve to live free of the daily fear that one of these trains will blow up in our backyard. The time to act is now, before it is too late.”

Read the legal petition. Petition exhibits available upon request.