Race against the rails

Yes, we are a reactionary society, yelling at the top of our lungs about what is happening right now.

That is why, in the midst of the Donald Sterling backlash and all of the usual outrage that accompanies what has become the Annual American Racist Story, the train derailment and subsequent fire that rocked Lynchburg, Virginia on April 30 has gone under reported.

This is really something that we in the North Country need to pay attention to.

In that incident, 13 tanker cars derailed and three fell into the James River. The resulting fireball spewed hazardous oil into the natural landscape, an area graced by the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains, and caused an immediate environmental concern. An unspecified amount of oil leaked into the river, potentially upsetting the ecosystem.

The rail cars involved were the same type that were carrying crude in the Lac-Megantic spill that killed 47 and leveled most of a town last year in Quebec.

These cars were also involved in spills in Alabama, North Dakota and New Brunswick.

In the North Country, we sit very close, if not on top of, the epicenter for East Coast rail transportation of this crude oil. Trainloads come through Canada on their way to downstate refineries, including one at the Port of Albany.

They travel along our riverways and lakeshores in DOT-111 containers that have recently been outlawed by the Canadian government. These single-wall cars were not even designed to carry crude oil.

Some of them pass within yards of shorelines, homes and businesses, many through unmarked intersections rife with blind spots.

Even with a ban on these cars, which have been proven to be accident-prone and unsafe, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported 14 of the 17 cars involved in the Lynchburg accident were built “to a higher standard voluntarily adopted by the industry in 2011.”

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