PROTECT calls upon Governor Cuomo to reject plans to store used oil tanker rail cars in the Adirondacks

September 8, 2015

PROTECT’s recent visit to Iowa Pacific rail car storage area in Essex County found rail cars left to deteriorate in a remote section of the Adirondack Forest Preserve

Iowa Pacific’s poor storage of passenger rail cars on its rail line in Essex County creates little confidence that the Company can safely store used oil tanker cars

In August 2015, Iowa Pacific Railway Company announced to the Warren County Board of Supervisors that it planned to begin marketing operations for longterm storage of used oil tanker DOT-111 railway cars. The Company stated that it saw an immense business opportunity for this activity on the East coast and that it was successfully storing several hundred such cars on railways that it operated in Colorado. The Warren County leaders took no position on this proposal, but referred it to their counsel for research. Iowa Pacific stated that it was informing the County simply as a courtesy and that this activity was exempt from any local or state regulations. At this time it is unclear what action, if any, Warren County will undertake.

Click here for the full letter to Governor Cuomo.

Iowa Pacific has leased the rail line in question from Saratoga and Warren Counties, while it owns the Sanford Lake Rail Line in Hamilton and Essex Counties. The line runs from Saratoga to the dormant Tahawus Mine in Newcomb, surrounded by the High Peaks Wilderness area. Iowa Pacific’s proposal is to transport used oil tanker cars through Saratoga and Warren counties, with long stretches within the Adirondack Park, and then store these cars, perhaps hundreds, along various stretches of the Sanford Lake Rail Line deep in the Adirondack Park.

Protect the Adirondacks is very concerned about this proposal and finds that it contradicts and undermines everything that the Adirondack Park is all about. This proposal threatens the scenic beauty, ecological integrity, and protections for the “forever wild” Forest Preserve. For many reasons we oppose this proposal and we urge the Cuomo Administration to take a stand for a protected Adirondack Park and reject this proposal.

This is a critical moment in the history of the Adirondack Park and for all the reasons below, PROTECT opposes this proposal.

Storage of Used Oil Cars Violates Longstanding APA Precedent: In the early 1990s, Governor Mario Cuomo stood behind the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Commissioners when they passed a resolution that the Adirondack Park should be used to handle locally generated garbage and waste, but not used to handle outside waste. This principle was upheld in 1995-1996 by Governor George Pataki who rebuffed an effort by Essex County leaders to sell the Essex County landfill to a company that wanted to make it a major regional landfill – a Fresh Kills north. We urge the Cuomo Administration to stand with long established precedent and not allow Iowa Pacific to import waste into the Adirondack Park.

Storage of Used DOT 111 Oil Tanker Cars Must be Investigated as a Regulated Activity under the APA Act and Environmental Conservation Law: Our initial research raises many questions about the regulatory status of a railroad once it is no longer used for transport, but used for longterm storage of rail cars, whether on a main track or siding. Such as transition appears to constitute a new commercial activity that should be subject to local control. We’ve seen many many cases over the years where small businesses in the Adirondacks had to secure new commercial use permits from the APA is order to utilize an existing building. We believe that the proposal of Iowa Pacific to utilize the Sanford Lake Rail Line constitutes a new commercial use.

Furthermore, nearly the entire stretch of the Sanford Lake Rail Line is within the classified “Wild” or “Scenic” river corridors of the Boreas or Hudson Rivers. While operating a railroad is a “grandfathered” activity within these protected corridors, the longterm storage of used oil tanker cars does not appear to be as it is a new use and activity. We also believe that other parts of the ECL must be investigated by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding storage of hazardous wastes.

Deterioration of Existing Stored Rail Cars on Sanford Lake Rail Line: On a visit to the Sanford Lake Railway, now owned by Iowa Pacific, on September 2nd, we found old passenger cars being stored on a stretch of siding that sits in a vast wetland system along the Boreas River. These cars are in disrepair and are falling apart. They had been vandalized and trash was evident. Most disturbing was the corroding paint on an old car where a large amount of paint chips had fallen from the car and were soaking into the track and ties. The poor storage of these cars does not give us much confidence in Iowa Pacific’s claims that there will be no negative environmental impacts from longterm storage of used oil tanker cars on the Sanford Lake Railway.

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The pictures above show flaking paint ships and a deteriorated rail car stored by Iowa Pacific Railroad along the siding track on the Sanford Lake Railway in a section that is 75 feet, or closer, to the Boreas River and within the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Area in Essex County. This is a location where Iowa Pacific has stated it would like to store used DOT 111 oil tanker rail cars. The pictures above show flaking paint ships and a deteriorated rail car stored by Iowa Pacific Railroad along the siding track on the Sanford Lake Railway in a section that is 75 feet, or closer, to the Boreas River and within the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Area in Essex County. This is a location where Iowa Pacific has stated it would like to store used DOT 111 oil tanker rail cars.
 
Visual Blight: Iowa Pacific has stated that it does not plan to store used oil tanker cars in Warren and Saratoga Counties, but plans to use the Sanford Lake Rail Line in Hamilton and Essex Counties. In these areas, the rail lines runs primarily through the Forest Preserve, including a vast stretch in lands just purchased by the state as part of the former Finch Paper/TNC lands in the “MacIntyre East” tract. The Sanford Lake Rail Line runs predominantly along the banks of the Hudson or Boreas River and storage in these areas undermines the “forever wild” Forest Preserve and constitutes a vast visual blight on the landscape. One part of the Sanford Lake Rail Line stands on the south bank of the Hudson River in North River plainly in sight for several miles for customers taking part in commercial whitewater rafting on the Hudson River.

Does “The Adirondack Park Open for Business” Include Storage of Used Oil Tanker Cars? The Cuomo Administration has made great fanfare that “The Adirondack Park is Open for Business.” This mantra now informs the work of the APA and the DEC. In fulfillment of this mantra the APA has approved largescale subdivisions of forestlands even though this will damage forest systems and destroy the ecological integrity of thousands of acres of forests. The DEC has set upon building wide road-like snowmobile trails that require the cutting and destruction of tens of thousands of trees and vast terrain alterations through parts of the Forest Preserve that have not see an ax in more than 100 years. The DEC vastly increased bobcat hunting, under questionable science, in order to maximize fur trapping opportunities. These issues have all been controversial, yet the Cuomo Administration has stood strongly behind these decisions. The question now is: Does “The Adirondack Park is Open for Business” include storage of hundreds of used oil tanker cars? We certainly hope that this proposal is found by your administration to be objectionable and inconsistent with everything that the Adirondack Park is all about.

Movable Toxic Waste Storage/Toxic Waste Storage on Wheels: The idea of storing used oil tanker cars on rail lines is troubling. If this activity is unregulated, as Iowa Pacific now contends, that means we could see hazardous waste dumps set up in many locations, a veritable movable hazardous waste site, a hazardous waste dump on wheels. This is not an activity that the State of New York should endorse.

Time for a Fresh Look: Iowa Pacific has not signed a new contract with Warren and Saratoga Counties for lease of the rail line. Its current contract expired last spring. The Company has claimed that its main economic activities, hauling aggregate rock from the Tahawus Mine or garnet from Barton Mine, have failed. Its tourist train in North Creek is also operating at a deficit. It’s time for Warren and Saratoga County leaders and your administration to take a fresh look and consider other, better options for this rail line.

For all of these reasons, Protect the Adirondacks urges Governor Andrew Cuomo to take a stand for the Adirondack Park and defend our natural resources and rural communities and reject this unwise and ill considered proposal.

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