This morning’s New York Times article, “Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train,” by Clifford Krauss and Jad Mouawad, is a tardy but welcome look at one more dangerous and irresponsible aspect of the shale oil industry and the need for common sense and regulation to prevent further destruction of our environment, cities, and homes, and avoidable loss of lives.
Last night I watched the first half of Harlan County, USA, an Oscar-winning documentary about the 1973 coal miners’ strike. Working and living conditions were deplorable. The action of the police and the lack of concern by the government was expected but nonetheless depressing. The courage and unity of the coalminers, both as workers and as strikers, and their wives were perhaps naive but definitely inspiring. The double-speak of the mine-owners was nauseating.
Granted working conditions have improved since then, but definitely not enough to convince me that we are living in a land of opportunity and equality and respect for the working man. The American ideals taught in grammar school (or which at least used to be taught in grammar school) and which are touted as making our country exceptional, are lost somewhere in the daily voracious onslaught of stupid and ugly politicking, the distracting hype and expensive investigation of non-existent conspiracies, the hate mongering media establishment, and the distortion that evil money brings to the interpretation and presentation of reality and to our government. I still believe that good money, decent bosses, and politicians and government officials with integrity and honor exist, so don’t get on me that I am anti-money or anti-capitalism or anti-government. These honest hard-working capitalists and politicians are just not having their day right now.
Some big industries still look upon workers as replaceable parts to be thrown away when they are too damaged to keep functioning. Innocent bystanders are also just part of the cost of doing business. Somewhere priorities are lost. What is more important: industry? or the people that industry is to serve?
This December I gathered together information from my personal research on what I see from my window overlooking the Hudson to share with the people of my town. Included were pesticide spraying by the railroads and electric companies, new electric lines from Canada to Manhattan, effects of the rising sea level, and the transport of crude oil from the Bakken fields through Albany to east coast refineries. With just a few updates, the section on the transport of oil along the river follows.
Global Partners and Buckeye terminals in Albany are hubs for the passage of shale oil from the Bakken, North Dakota fields to refineries north and south along the east coast. The oil comes in by train and goes out by barge or rail.
Surete du Quebec photo of the Lac Megantic derailment
Roger Downs, conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter in Albany is quoted in a July 2013 article in the Albany Times Union: “People in the Capital District are horrified by the catastrophic train derailment and the subsequent loss of life in Quebec – but have no idea that the same Bakken crude oil shipments rumble through the heart of the city of Albany every day – presenting even greater risks to the lives of our own citizens. . . If we are truly serious about facilitating a renewable energy future and protecting public health from these man-made disasters, Albany lawmakers can and should act to ban crude oil shipments through all our urban corridors.”
Downs was referring to the tanker train collision, fire, and death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic in Canada, just 10 miles out from Maine, a few days earlier.
Area agencies and residents are also concerned about the possibility of other accidents, such as the one in December of 2012, when a double-hulled tanker, the Stena Primorsk carrying crude ran aground 10 miles south of Albany. No oil spilled from the tanker although the outer hull was breached.
Training of first responders as well as purchasing of emergency equipment in the Port of Albany and surrounding areas has been ongoing. In November, officials from Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties, the U.S. Coast Guard and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation enacted a simulation of an oil spill from a Global Partners subsidiary’s terminal in New Windsor. Over 100 people, including representatives from NOAA, observed. The results showed that if floating booms were not used, the oil could spread as far north as Wappingers Creek and south to Storm King Park, a total of 15 miles.
Financial reporters are emphasizing that the less expensive shale oil will boost the east coast refineries that have been suffering from the high costs of imported oil. Shipping crude oil by rail to and through Albany is only going to grow.
Schumer in Kingston, photo by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman
Railroad companies are asking for more regulation on the construction of railroad cars so that new cars, which are in demand, will be safer than the currently used DOT-111. The DOT-111s are the tankers that derailed and burnt in Lac-Magantic and again in Alberta this October. New York’s Senator Schumer called on the Federal Department of Transportation to phase out the DOT-111 in July, and this January he reiterated his appeal after the North Dakota derailment.
Sen. Schumer reported that between 100 and 200 DOT-111s pass through Kingston daily. Most freight trains travel the western bank of the Hudson. The tracks on the eastern shore are being restructured to make commuter travel more efficient. However, the difference in how a railroad disaster would affect us if it is on our side or the other side of the river is only a matter of degree.
Nothing in today’s New York Times article today mentions that oil trains are running across and down New York state, nor am I able to find any mention of Schumer’s concerns on the issue in the Times. I’d like to think that our Senator’s second round of concern was sparked in part by the letter I wrote to his office – but that is a bit presumptuous. Why don’t you write him one?
I’m not a rabble-rouser.. I don’t want to start a revolution. I’m not a Joe Hill. I just want to be safe and healthy and leave a good place for my children and their children.
It’s 1:30 and there are only 15 comments on the article. There are however 400 on Ross Douthat’s contribution on marriage, sexuality, morality and poverty. There are 212 comments on Maureen Dowd’s coverage of the emerging marijuana tourist business in Colorado.
Come on, people. Come out of the clouds and think a little.
Call to action issued after North Dakota oil train wreck, 01/07/2014 http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2014/01/07/Call-to-action-issued-after-North-Dakota-oil-train-wreck/UPI-75251389095711/
CP Rail oil shipment deal signals rail transport no longer stopgap measure, by Jeff Lewis, 09/01/2013 http://business.financialpost.com/2013/01/09/cp-rail-oil-shipment-deal-signals-rail-transport-no-longer-stopgap-measure/?__lsa=c6f7-eda2
Global Partners boosts Bakken shipments to eastern refiners, by Aaron Clark Bradley Olson, 04/18/2012 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-18/global-partners-boosts-bakken-shipments-to-eastern-refiners-1-.html
How an oil spill could spread in the Hudson River, by Brian Nearing, 11/13/2013 http://blog.timesunion.com/green/how-an-oil-spill-could-spread-in-the-hudson-river/4485/
Hudson spill drill will test skill: many agencies plan for first river exercises since tanker accident, by Brian Nearing, 11/08/2013 http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Hudson-spill-drill-will-test-skill-4968951.php
New York turns into hub for shale boom, by Gregory Meyer, 02/14/2014 http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5afe2abe-7564-11e2-b8ad-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2mMKhLZNS
Oil by rail: are we safe? Quebec disaster puts focus on busy Albany oil corridor, by Eric Anderson, 07/10/2013 http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Oil-by-rail-Are-we-safe-4656040.php
Schumer calls on FEDS to require phase-out plan of DOT-111 cars carrying oil through Western New York. . ., press release, 08/13/2013 http://www.schumer.senate.gov/Newsroom/record.cfm?id=345541&&year=2013&
Tanker carrying Bakken crude to Canadian refinery runs aground, by Eliot Caroom & Dan Murtaugh, 12/20/2012 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-20/tanker-carrying-bakken-crude-to-canadian-refinery-runs-aground.html
Unsettling echoes of Canada rail disaster, by Chris Churchill, The Advocate, 08/03/2013 http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Unsettling-echoes-of-Canada-rail-disaster-4705390.php