Howie Hawkins called for a moratorium today on oil shipments by train through New York State following the derailment of a locomotive pulling 97 empty oil cars in Kingston on Tuesday, February 25.
Hawkins called Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order to identify the immediate risks to New York communities and waterways from the increase in oil trains “too little, too late.”
“The Governor is rightly concerned about clean-up after the inevitable spill, but what about preventing spills in the first place?” said Hawkins of Syracuse, through which CSX oil trains travel.
Hawkins said the moratorium should remain until all safety concerns are addressed and remedied.
The Green Party's Ursula Rozum noted the growing number of oil train accidents, and the inadequacy of recently announced federal voluntary safety measures. “Even Chuck Schumer thinks they don’t go far enough,” Rozum said, Green Party of New York State Committee member from Syracuse.
More oil spilled in the US from trains in 2013 than from 1975 to 2012 combined. “From Lac Megantic to North Dakota, from Alabama to Minnesota, and now Ulster County,” said Hawkins, “oil trains are derailing, spilling, exploding.”
There has been a 400% increase in oil shipments by rail since 2005. Much of this oil comes from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and traverses upstate New York. A considerable portion is offloaded at the Port of Albany (located in the mostly African-American South End) onto ships and barges for the trip down the Hudson to refineries in Philadelphia and Canada.
“Oil trains in New York are a rolling environmental injustice,” said Rozum. “Their route takes them near Native lands, and within a few feet of a public housing complex in Albany. Why has the DEC violated its own guidelines for environmental justice assessments when it comes to oil processing and shipping?”
Railroad workers too are concerned about the dangers of the giant oil trains. “One hundred car trains are simply too long,” said retired locomotive mechanic and labor activist Jon Flanders. “They place incredible strain on tracks and locomotives, surely factors in the recent derailments,” said Flanders.
“Safer oil trains are superior to the building more pipelines in the short term. But we have to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure like fracking, pipelines, and tar sands boilers. Every dollar invested in fossil fuel infrastructure locks us into decades more fossil fuel dependence and diverts us from urgently needed investment in clean energy,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins also said today that he strongly opposes the apparent plan by a Massachusetts company to process tar sands oil for transshipment to ships and barges at the Port of Albany.
“No, we don’t know for certain that the oil will be from the Albertan tar sands,” said Hawkins, “but why else would Global Partners need four giant boilers at its proposed plant?” The boilers would presumably heat and liquify the sludgy bituminous tar sands oil for ease of handling.
“We don’t know for sure,” said Hawkins, “because the company refuses to answer reasonable questions about its plans from either citizens or the media. How’s that for transparency?”
“The goop isn’t really even oil, but diluted bitumen, a thick, tar-like substance that takes more energy to mine, transport, and refine than the final product provides,” said Rozum.
“It’s exactly the wrong stuff at the wrong time,” said Hawkins who’s campaigning on a platform to completely replace New York’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels by clean renewable energy like wind and solar by 2030.
The Green Party’s Matt Funiciello, running for Congress in NY's 21st Congressional District, owns a business in Glens Falls, the Rock Hill Bakehouse, just a few miles from the Canadian Pacific rail line on which many oil trains travel through the upper Hudson River Valley from the Bakken Shale oil field via Montreal to Albany.
“It’s bad enough that CSX and Canadian Pacific ship over a billion gallons of fracked crude a year into the Port of Albany aboard thousands of dangerous outdated rail tankers that run directly through dozens of New York communities,” said Funiciello. “Now, if Big Oil get its way, upstate New York will play a major role in exploiting the Canadian tar sands, a move famed climate scientist James Hansen called ‘game over’ for the climate.”