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Vigil, March, Forum: Uniting Against Bomb Trains, Pilgrim Pipelines and Barges

July 9, 2015

Public Forum Highlights Opposition to Crude Oil Fracking, Transport
March, vigil commemorates 47 killed in oil train explosion; advocates oppose proposed Pilgrim pipelines, unsafe oil trains, and Hudson River barges

Kingston, NYMarchers carried banners reading “Will We Be Next?” to the railroad bridge over Broadway in Kingston early Thursday evening. There, mile-long trains carrying flammable Bakken Shale crude oil pass within a few feet of residents daily. Fifty marchers rang a bell commemorating the 47 people killed when an oil train carrying Bakken crude exploded, incinerating much of Lac Megantic, Canada, in July 2013.

Kingston, New York: Marchers oppose the proposed Pilgrim pipelines as well as the crude oil “bomb trains” because the Bakken Shale oil fracking boom is destroying communities in North Dakota, damaging climate, waterways and health. Marchers commemorated 47 lives lost in Lac Megantic; then 175 people attended a public forum on crude oil by rail, pipeline and barge. Photo: Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman

Following the march, inside Kingston City Hall at a packed public forum, 175 people listened to ten leaders brought home the dangers of increasing crude oil transport through the Hudson Valley. In addition to opposing unsafe oil trains, and aiming to get oil barges off the Hudson River, the speakers and 17 endorsing organizations all oppose the controversial proposed Pilgrim pipelines. Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY organized the forum.

Words of warning came from Kandi Mossett, Indigenous Environmental Network, North Dakota: “New York has wisely banned fracking. It would be equally wise to exercise serious caution on the transport of volatile crude and other fossil fuel infrastructure so the state does not host the next big fracking-related disaster. Take it from us: act now, before your communities become a toxic playground for oil and gas companies.”

“Over 300,000 people’s drinking water is at risk within New York State from crude oil transportation by rail, barges and tankers,” said Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper. “The proposed Pilgrim pipelines would threaten people and the environment across New York and New Jersey and would lock us into decades of additional fossil fuel development. We call on our elected officials and state and federal regulators to reject the dirty of energy of yesterday and join us in supporting the fastest possible transition to renewable energy, which climate change demands.”

Alderman Brad Will, of Kingston Common Council’s 3rd Ward, introduced the successful Resolution Opposing Pilgrim Pipelines in Kingston. He commented, “The proposed Pilgrim Pipelines pose an unnecessary environmental threat, and represent an outdated paradigm of reliance on fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources have enjoyed tremendous increases in capacity over the past decade, and represent our best hope for a cleaner, greener post-fossil fuel future.”

“The exponential increase in freight rail oil, gas, and chemical transportation compels municipalities, rail companies, State and Federal Rail Administration officials to work with communities on comprehensive evacuation and emergency preparedness plans,” Will added. “Railroads that cross through densely populated areas, sensitive waterways, and on old rails, bridges, and trestles, most urgently demand inspections and repairs – and strictly enforced speed limits.”

Chris Amato, staff attorney for Earthjustice, commented, “Within the past two years, the Port of Albany has been transformed into a major crude-by-rail hub handling over 3 billion gallons of crude oil annually. This massive increase is impacting neighboring communities, yet no environmental justice analysis has been done.”

“New York is in the cross hairs of the oil industry .We have become a conduit for fracked oil coming by rail out of North Dakota,” said Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “The oil industry threatens the safety of 25 million Americans living in the blast zone. Kingston sits right in the blast zone along with many other upstate cities. Unsafe rail cars, proposed Pilgrim pipelines, expanded barge traffic, and the possibility of adding tar sands bitumen to this mess is not the future New Yorkers want.”

Sue Rosenberg of Saugerties said, “The Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines joins this Week of Action against crude by rail. Transporting oil fracked in the Bakken Shale puts our communities in great danger. Bakken crude is toxic and volatile. Escalating train derailments, explosions, and pipeline leaks have poisoned waters and harmed public health. From the shale fields of North Dakota to the Port of Albany and through towns and communities along the Hudson, fracked shale oil puts us at risk and contributes to climate change. Our sustainable energy future will not get here fast enough if we keep using extreme fossil fuels like Bakken crude. Keep it in the ground.”

The packed program also included words of welcome from the Mayor of Kingston; a short film about oil trains by oceans expert, author and filmmaker Jon Bowermaster; an update on renewable energy initiatives in the Hudson Valley from Rosendale Town Councilmember Jen Metzger; questions, discussion, and action suggestions.

Background: Pilgrim pipelines would be drilled under the Rondout, Wallkill, Esopus, Ramapo and other New York and New Jersey rivers, putting waterways directly in the path of a major spill. Drinking water aquifers would also be at risk. Air would be impacted by toxic emissions of benzene and other carcinogens from pump stations along the pipelines. In the past five years there have been 1000 spills from oil pipelines in the United States.

Oil trains now threaten the lives of 25 million Americans living within the blast zone. Bakken shale crude oil is the most flammable, volatile oil of any crude oil on the planet. The combination of rickety infrastructure and tin-can rail cars (DOT 111 and 1232) adds to the danger.

Endorsed by: KingstonCitizens.org, Esopus Creek Conservancy, Citizen Action Kingston, Midtown Rising, End the New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN), Protecting Our Waters, Citizens for Local Power; Frack Free Catskills, Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines – Saugerties; Riverkeeper; Catskill Mountainkeeper; Concerned Citizens of Esopus; Sierra Club Hudson Valley; Sierra Club Mid Atlantic; Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, Earth Guardians NY.

Background information is available on participating groups’ websites, particularly:
Citizens for Local Power
Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines
Riverkeeper
Protecting Our Waters

Also see:
Pipelines Blow Up and People Die (Politico)
Pick Your Poison for Crude: Pipeline, Rail, Truck or Boat (Forbes)
Unsafe and Unnecessary: Oil Trains Threaten 25 Million Americans (Ralph Nader on Huffington Post)

Contact:
Contact: Leah Rae, Staff Writer, Riverkeeper, 914-715-6821
Iris Marie Bloom, Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-New York 845-687-7810, protectingourwaters@gmail.com
Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper 845-901-1029, wes@catskillmountainkeeper.org
Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines – Saugerties: Sue Rosenberg 914-466-0954, rosenberg.sue@gmail.com
New Yorkers Against Fracking: Jess Mullen 917- 500-8923, iheartupstateny@gmail.com

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