Making Democracy Work

Environment Action Committee

The latest actions of the environment committee.

Oil Train Program - Meeting with CSX Corporation Representatives

The Environment Committee invited representatives from CSX Rail Corporation to speak with it about the safety of oil trains which increasingly are moving through Schenectady County.

Maurice O'Connell (Regional Vice President for State Government and Community Affairs) and Robert Rohauer (Manager of Community Affairs and Safety) for CSX Corporation met with the Committee on March 9th. They described the work CSX does to build safeguards into the system and the training they do in the handling of hazardous situations on the railroad for local first responders and their own employees. Oil trains were a significant part of the discussion.

CSX Corporation operates a 21,000 mile rail network across 23 Eastern states and into Quebec and Ontario. Oil trains are not a large part of their business, accounting for approximately 2% of the total. The tanker cars are not owned by the railroad but are owned by the shippers (customers of CSX) or by leasing companies. They are packed by the shippers in accordance to guidelines established by the Federal Government (new guidelines may be issued as early as May or June 2015). As long as the rail cars are packed in compliance with the prescribed guidelines, the railroads are obligated to move them. The railroads are governed by interstate commerce laws rather than state laws. The railroad's role is to ship the oil from its point of origin (the Bakken fields of North Dakota) to its destination. Oil trains are handed to CSX from Canadian Pacific (CP) in Chicago. The

vast majority of the CSX trains go through Selkirk to Philadelphia or New Jersey. The CSX trains that go to Albany offload to large Buckeye Oil storage tanks; from the tanks the oil is taken on barges to New York City and then to refineries on the coast. CP also ships oil to Albany, serving the Global Partners Oil Company. The CP cars are the ones that can be seen along I-787. This oil is stored in tanks behind the Ezra Prentice Apartments, which is a concern to residents of that area. The oil trains that go through Glenville are operated by PanAm which takes over from CSX in Rotterdam Junction.

Railroads support tougher federal safety standards for new tank cars and retrofitting of existing cars used to transport crude oil. The railroads are liable for accidents that occur on their tracks so they have a vested interest in preventing hazardous situations on the railroad and in mitigating the impact of any that do occur.

CSX hosts training programs for emergency responders in local communities. CSX also has its own highly trained HAZMAT field officers who are trained to respond to incidents, especially those related to hazardous materials including oil. In 2013, following the Lac Megantic disaster in Quebec (which took place on an independent short line), new government standards including inspections, wayside detectors and new braking requirements and training of all first responders on Class I lines were issued. All class I railroads in the USA and in Canada adopted these standards.

Betsy Chase and Ruth Bonn

Schenectady Recycles!

Schenectady Recycles!, a group of League members and others concerned about recycling rates in the City of Schenectady, has been working for the past several months on a pilot program in Woodlawn. The Woodlawn effort has been more intensive than can be maintained throughout the City with a small core of volunteers. To widen our efforts and move out into other City neighborhoods, our strategy is to work through neighborhood associations. We have been attending and presenting at meetings of Schenectady United Neighborhoods (SUN) seeking related areas of mutual interests. Littering is one such area.

If you are a LWV member who lives in the City of Schenectady, we encourage you to take a recycling lead in your own neighborhood. In

addition to setting a good recycling example, attending neighborhood association meetings and participating in recycling discussions would help give direction and leadership to your neighborhood recycling program.

Recycling is part of the larger "quality of life" picture that neighborhood associations are concerned about. Dynamic leadership is needed. Each of us can work within our own neighborhood associations to form a recycling core that can address this aspect of the quality of life. We are learning through our Woodlawn pilot, just how central recycling issues are to the perception of quality of life. SR! strongly urges you to take a leadership role in this effort.

Nancy Peterson and Roberta Farrell

Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act saves lives. Since it was first enacted in 1970, the Clean Air Act has succeeded in cutting unhealthy levels of air pollution throughout the country, and has done so at a reasonable cost. Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is updating regulations under the Clean Air Act to control toxic air pollutants, curb emissions from big power plants, and limit the pollutants that are causing global climate change. Unfortunately, special interests and their allies in Congress are trying to curtail EPA's authority and sidetrack these new rules. This is a critical public health and environmental issue. But it is also a good government issue. In passing the Clean Air Act, Congress recognized that it's poorly equipped to make specific technical and scientific determinations. So Congress set overall goals, including protecting public health, and EPA was delegated responsibility to work with the best scientists and engineers in reviewing scientific data, monitoring industrial processes, and developing appropriate controls. Bypassing this process and letting Congress second-guess specific regulations at the behest of special interest lobbyists is simply bad government. It substitutes raw politics for scientific expertise. The League of Women Voters believes that new clean air regulations are needed to protect our health and our environment. Toxic air pollution and global climate change must be addressed. And the League believes that Congress should not yield to special interests and undermine EPA. Scientific and technological decisions must be based on knowledge and expertise rather than raw politics. Submitted to the Daily Gazette as a Letter to the Editor from LWVSchenectady