Hawkins Joins Vigil Against Bomb Trains

Hawkins Joins Vigil Against Bomb Trains

Hawkins Calls for Moratorium on Oil Shipment by Rail and No Tar Sands Oil in New York

Until Moratorium, NY Residents Have a Right to Know Details of Bakken and other Oil Shipments

(Syracuse, NY) At a vigil in Syracuse to observe the one year anniversary of the 47 residents killed in Lac Megantic, Canada by a derailment of a "bomb train," Howie Hawkins said that New York State residents have a right to know about the details of similar shipments here in New York.

The federal government has denied public access to such information on the grounds of homeland security due to the threats posed by possible explosions of the oil train cars. Yet federal regulators have few safeguards in place to protect communities and the environment from accidents, spills and explosions resulting from the race to move millions of barrels of crude by rail. Between March 2013 and May 2014, there were 12 significant oil train derailments in the United States and Canada. Crude oil – and other hazardous materials shipped by rail – have been exempted from the disclosure requirement of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

Hawkins, the Green nominee for Governor, has previously called for a moratorium on oil shipments by rail until all safety concerns are addressed and remedied. Each oil train car carries the equivalent of 2 million sticks of dynamite.

Hawkins wants New York to go to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, a goal deemed feasible for New York in a recent peer-reviewed study by Cornell and Stanford scientists, engineers, and economists. Hawkins for more than 4 years has been calling for a ban on hydrofracking for natural gas. Rather than wasting funds developing more fossil fuels and expanding its infrastructure, Hawkins wants to invest in wind, solar, energy conservation and efficiency, and other renewable resources.

More oil spilled in the U.S. from trains in 2013 than from 1975 to 2012 combined. “From Lac Megantic to North Dakota, from Alabama to Minnesota and recently in Albany and Ulster Counties,” 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 Ursula Rozum, the campaign manager for Hawkins. “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, who is heading up Labor for Hawkins. “They place incredible strain on tracks and locomotives, surely factors in the recent derailments,” said Flanders.

Most of the rail tank cars used to carry crude oil are old "DOT-111s," widely known to be unsafe. NRDC points out that in April 2014, outgoing National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairwoman Deborah Hersman confirmed that unmodified DOT-111 tank cars – non-pressurized rail tank cars that accident investigators report are easily punctured or ruptured during a derailment – are not safe to carry hazardous liquids.

"Safer oil cars vs. building more pipelines is a false choice which limits our attention to the business as usual energy solutions of the past.  In the 21st century we must 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 that he strongly opposes the plan by a Massachusetts company to process tar sands oil for transshipment to ships and barges at the Port of Albany. Prior to the growing protests, the Cuomo administration had given a green light to the project, ruling that it did not need to have a formal environmental review.

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