PROTESTERS FIGHT OIL TRAINS

Publish Date: 
Monday, August 4, 2014 - 6:15am

PROTESTERS FIGHT OIL TRAINS
By James Goodman, Democrats and Chronicle
Holding signs with statements such as "No exploding oil trains" about 40 protesters gathered Sunday near the railroad tracks at North Main and Railroad streets in the village of Fairport.

The protest, organized by six local mothers, was held on the one-year anniversary of a deadly accident in Canada, and is part a growing chorus of concern about train shipments of crude oil, which have sharply increased in recent years.

The focus of the protest was freight shipments from the Bakken formation that includes parts of North Dakota and Montana and extends into Canada. Production from Bakken has increased to about 1 million barrels a day, and with the use of fracking is projected to continue to grow. This crude oil, which is highly volatile, was being transported on the train that derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, a year ago — causing explosions and fires that claimed 47 lives and the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.

Katie Fittipaldi, one of the six moms, asked the protesters to remember the victims.

"Please join me in a moment of silence as we stand with the community of Lac-Megantic," said Fittipaldi, 36, of Pittsford.

Fittipaldi and the other local mothers in the informal group share a concern about climate change and the dependence on fossil fuels — and warn that a derailment such as the one in Canada could happen in Rochester, where trains carrying oil from the Bakken formation pass.

"We have to make sure that people are aware and inspire them to act," said Neely Kelley, another of the mothers who organized the protest.

Two pages of names on a petition calling for "No more fiery oil-by-rail disasters in our backyards" were collected at the protest by Benny Smith, 14, whose mother, Susan, is another of the organizers.

Citing the highly volatile nature of Bakken oil, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in May ordered railroads to notify states of shipments from the region so that firefighters and first responders can better prepare for accidents

Other federal officials — including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY — have raised concerns about the safety of the DOT-111 cars used for transporting the oil. Schumer, who has been urging the phasing out or retrofitting of these cars, said that the U.S. Department of Transportation is working on a rule concerning the safety of these cars.

Rob Doolittle, spokesman for CSX Transportation, said that the company "understands that there are concerns related to the transport of crude oil through communities in which we operate."

He said that CSX has taken several initiatives in recent months, such as increased track inspections, reduced speed limits for certain trains in federally designated, high-threat urban areas, deployment of additional trackside monitoring and increased training — including a visit to to meet with first-responders in the Rochester area. Still, CSX has been among the freight carriers trying to prevent New York and other states from turning over the information on oil train routes and volumes, arguing that details about such ships are security sensitive.

Officials in some states, including North Dakota, Montana, California and Florida, have released information on oil trains.

New York officials haven't decided whether to release this information to the public.

Rob Schultz, 45, of Farmington, was among those at Sunday's protest urging greater disclosure about what's on the trains.

"There needs to be more information. There is no discussion of the risks," he said.

At least three trains carrying cargo went past the protesters as they stood near the tracks. Protesters tried to figure out if the cars were carrying oil from Bakken.

An analysis of federal data by POLITICO, a publication based in Washington, D.C., showed that more 400 oil-train incidents since 1971 and the more than 400,000 carloads of crude oil originating in the United States last year marked a 42-fold increase from 2008. Freight trains, with 50 to 100 tank cars, regularly pass through upstate New York cities — including Rochester — on their way to the Port of Albany. Rail tankers full of Bakken crude are unloaded at two busy terminals there for shipment on freighters down the Hudson River to refineries on the East Coast.

The main CSX rail freight line runs through downtown Rochester and densely populated neighborhoods on either side of it, as well as suburbs such as Gates, Brighton, East Rochester and Perinton.

The railroad's secondary freight line, the West Shore, runs through populous parts of the southern suburbs, including Chili, Henrietta and Pittsford.

CSX spokesman Doolittle said that the company can't refuse a shipment that is in compliance with federal regulations.

But Kelley said CSX should say "no" to Bakken oil.

"I think they have a moral and ethical responsibility," she said.

Full Article: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2014/07/06/protesters-fig...