Contact: Kristi Barnes, firstname.lastname@example.org, (646) 853-4489
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 21
Nurses, Elected Officials, Environmental and Community Advocates Declare Oil Trains a Threat to Public Health
Activists Stage Die-In to Dramatize Threat of Oil Train Explosions
Saratoga Springs, NY — Hundreds of members of the New York State Nurses Association, along with local and state officials and community and environmental advocates, held a rally and die-in at the Saratoga Springs Amtrak station. The typically quiet train station, where two freight trains loaded with oil from fracking pass each day, was transformed by live music, chanting, a die-in and a dozen speakers calling for greater safety precautions when transporting oil by rail.
Speakers emphasized the danger to public health posed by oil trains, and raised several solutions to protect communities throughout the state from potential derailments and explosions.
The rally also commemorated the 47 people who died in a tragic oil train accident in Lac-Mégantic, Canada. Several recent derailments and massive explosions in Canada, Alabama, North Dakota and West Virginia have drawn attention to the fracking oil trains that pass through New York State.
The state of New York placed a temporary moratorium on hydrofracking, but volatile, explosive oil produced from fracking travels through the state on its way to refineries on the East Coast, passing through cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Plattsburg, Saratoga Springs, and Albany, as well as many smaller communities in between and along the Hudson River, skirting New York City.
“Oil trains pose a significant public health risk,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “Oil train derailments, collisions, leaks, and explosions have killed more than 50 people and spilled more than 3 million gallons of oil in less than a year. Much stronger regulations are needed, and I applaud Assembly Members Fahey and Steck for their legislation.”
“The growth of crude oil transportation has continued to climb. With storage facilities right here at the Port of Albany, cities like Saratoga Springs are along the route where two major oil freight lines converge in Albany. A disaster with these trains has the potential for devastating consequences, in which nurses will be on the front lines of responding to these highly preventable situations. I applaud the nurses and medical professionals for supporting my Petroleum Storage Surety Act and taking a stand to ensure the public is protected,” said Assembly Member Fahy.
According to Assembly Member Phil Steck, “The crude oil carried on these trains is completely different than the crude carried by pipeline. Pipeline operators require that this highly-volatile fracked crude oil be stabilized before entering their infrastructure, knowing all too well the explosive nature of this crude. Bakken crude is transported by rail, so it is up to the federal government to increase the safety standards - and they have yet to act. I am urging our federal government to immediately require all Bakken crude be stabilized before it is transported across the country, including my own Assembly district, and risking the lives of millions each day.”
“Transporting crude oil by rail is growing at alarming rates with no consideration to the community that it is effecting. Who is benefiting from the danger? Not our communities,” said Shana Davis, President of the Capital District Chapter Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
“Every day, unsafe and dangerous tank cars haul volatile, toxic crude oil through the heart of our neighborhoods and right beside one of New York’s most valuable natural resources, the Hudson River,” stated Althea Mullarkey, Public Policy Analyst for environmental group Scenic Hudson. “It is unacceptable that our federal government continues to ignore the risks and catastrophic danger these traveling “bomb trains” present, and they must act now to protect our communities, our citizens and the irreplaceable natural assets of the Hudson.”
“Oil trains present a clear and immediate danger to schools and communities across the state. Healthy Schools Network has identified over 350 schools in New York within a mile or less of tracks used by Bakken Oil trains,” explained Claire Barnett, executive director of the Healthy Schools Network. “This means tens of thousands of our children are at risk of a catastrophic event every day, and already hard-pressed schools need to deal with this new and frightening threat. We call on the train and oil industry, and leaders of New York State and the federal government to reduce the speed limits of oil trains to at least 15 miles per hour within these danger zones.”
“New York is at a crossroads between maintaining our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and making a transition to renewable energy,” said Eric Weltman of Food and Water Watch. “The terrible danger that bomb trains pose to our communities and environment are another reason why we need bold leadership to make that transition. Fortunately, New York’s fracking ban is evidence that the oil and gas industry can be thwarted.”
Bill Boehmke, chair of the Climate and Energy Committee of Sustainable Saratoga, said, “The future sustainability of our fragile earth depends on substantially decreasing the use of fossil fuels and increasing energy efficiency and the development and use of clean renewable energy sources.”
Mark Emanation from Citizen Action said, “As a person who lives 2 blocks from the train tracks that these trains travel on, I worry about my family and community everyday. As a person who works in the South End of Albany, I worry about the health of the people living there. Let's stop these trains before another disaster.”
Patricia Kane, RN, Treasurer of NYSNA said, “Just last week, Governor Cuomo secured federal funding so that local fire departments could be more prepared to battle an oil train explosion. That will help with triage. But let’s not lose site of the big picture. Burning fossil fuels causes irreparable harm to our health. It is speeding climate change and increasing the number of extreme weather events that will require a triage response from nurses. Enough is enough!”
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) is the largest nurses’ union in New York State representing more than 37,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals. To learn more about NYSNA, visit www.nysna.org.