Demonstrators rail against local oil trains

(Photo by David Gordon)

(Photo by David Gordon)

About 70 Saugerties residents and supporters from nearby communities protested the transportation of crude oil on local railways at the Rt. 212 railways.

The date, July 6, is the anniversary of an oil spill at Lac Megantic, Quebec, that set off a major fire which killed 47 people and wiped out the town’s center. The oil in question comes from the Bakkan Shale in North Dakota and is more hazardous than crude oil from other areas. It is transported on CSX freight lines.

The protesters carried signs shaped like railroad cars bearing slogans such as “fracked oil and gas must be stopped,” “RR workers call them bomb trains” and “toxic cargo.” In some cases, the signs were lined up to deliver a message, similar to the Burma Shave signs that lined the nation’s highways years ago. For instance, one series read, “toxic cargo,” “2X a day + more coming our way,”  “100 cars,” “30,000 gallons each,” “crude oil,” “explosive.”


The vigil was organized by Frack Fee Catskills. Demonstrators lined both sides of the road. With the annual car show going on in town, traffic was heavy – but that was not the reason for choosing the date.  “There are similar demonstrations going on across the country and in Canada,” said Susan Rosenberg of Saugerties, one of the organizers. The signs were designed by Linda Leeds of Woodstock.

The Quebec accident on July 6, 2013 demolished some 30 buildings, about half of the town of Lac Megantic’s center, according to Wikipedia.

Firefighters from Maine crossed the border to help with rescue and cleanup, said Eric Werthman of Glenford. He was visiting Maine when the accident occurred. “They [firefighters] said it felt like they had been in a war zone. The train was on a ramp and it slid off and slid through the main street of the town.”

Demonstrators acknowledged that pipelines, trucking and other means of transporting oil can lead to serious accidents. The ultimate aim is to discourage or diminish the use of fossil fuels altogether, replacing them with cleaner forms of energy, such as wind, tidal, hydro and solar, and to encourage conservation.

But don’t we need the oil to run our cars, heat our homes, and produce our goods?

Not at all, said Ed Hoffman, citing a recent article by a team from Stanford and Cornell University that discussed the possibility of basing 85 percent of our needs on renewable energy by 2030, with complete independence by 2050. The combination of wind, tidal and water power could replace oil within a reasonable time, especially if combined with great reductions in the use of energy through more efficient technology, the authors state.

You don’t have to look very far to find a recent oil spill, said Joanne Myers. A tank car spilled about 100 gallons of crude oil in the Port of Albany on April 6, reports CBS News, and the spill was cleaned up without any oil running into the river.

The demonstrators provided a copy of a petition Riverkeeper is circulating that calls on Gov. Cuomo to enforce safety guidelines set out by the National Transportation Safety Board, which include sturdier rail cars than are now being used and the addition of recommended safety equipment. Riverkeeper states that there have been at least four train derailments involving the so-called DOT-111 tankers, which lack the recommended robust construction and recommended safety equipment.