Editorial: This is the thing

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton.

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton.

The one thing. The one thing with the highest chance of visiting flames, ruin and large-scale death on our community. The one thing that has this dread opportunity pretty much every day of the year. Oil trains.

Trains like the one in West Virginia which derailed this week. It sent up huge columns of fire and smoke, poured gallons and gallons of crude oil into a river and prompted one local resident to describe the scene as “like Hell.” And this crash was with the allegedly safer, newer tanker cars, not the DOT-111’s with a host of safety issues. Yow.

Luckily, in this case, only one person was injured — a stark contrast to the 47 killed in that oil train crash in Quebec a while back.


But whenever I hear, and I suspect this is true of many others around here, of one of these incidents I can’t help but think of what would happen if this went down in the middle of Kingston. What if it happened right where the tracks are close to the high school and the hospital, during the middle of a school day. I don’t care how good your evacuation plan is and how well your first responders have been trained, it would be a horror. The kind of thing that would scar a city for the rest of its life.

Sometimes it may seem to some that activists are pains in the butts, raising their voices far past the point of being annoying about things like oil trains. There are formidable obstacles to making the transport of crude oil safe. (Oh hell, there’s only one real obstacle, and that’s getting politicians to believe it’s worth the billions it would cost to fix faulty tracks and replace unsafe rolling stock.) But unless and until this problem’s tackled, all of us who live in communities large and small where these trains run through are in a very real sense every day whistling past the graveyard. Here, we’re depending upon luck, the grace of God or whatever to save us from a burning of Kingston far worse than the British army could have ever delivered.

So, rail on against these trains, activists. We all should join them in calling for much more spending on rail safety and upgrades.

There are 3 comments

  1. Kevin Godbey

    So, let’s see. Disasters are bad. Disasters in urban areas are probably even worse. I think everyone can agree on that. Whether you love Obama or hate him, get your news from Fox or MSNBC, believe in creationism or evolution, it probably doesn’t matter. The thought of seeing family, friends, or neighbors incinerated is probably something no one wants to deal with, EVER. So, since there is most likely a collective will of the people fo make rail transportation safer and avoid more disasters, why isn’t this on the top of every politicians priority list at all levels including the local, county, state, and national level? This is a no-brainer. There’s no controversy here, right?
    And think of it. This problem isn’t exactly new and yet nothing is really happening to resolve it. I think we’ll all have to come to a collective understanding of why our government is so fundamentally dysfunctional and address that issue before any progress is made on other major issues like this one. ‘Railing on’ in itself probably isn’t going to really amount to much.

  2. gerald berke

    Short of stopping the oil trains, it seems futile. “Much more spending”? why, so that in 5 years the risk will be reduced? (assuming the tar sands are still being mined) everywhere? Who is covering the insurance against these accidents?
    Put huge dollars into rail upgrades for this one product? That needs to be stopped in any case, since the whole process is net more pollution and certainly not the way to move where climate change is exacerbated…
    This editorial says basically “this stuff is scary and we need to do something about it”… no notion of when how long, costs, feasibility.
    If it’s that scary, stop the trains. Has anything that big and heavy and often ever gone through this city and across it’s bridges?

  3. Leah Rae

    Good questions about what can be done to address the risks from oil trains.

    Here’s a list of steps that state and federal officials can take IMMEDIATELY:

    Your town can take action, too. See the resolution (PDF) passed by the Philipstown Town Board:

    And you can send a message here to Gov. Cuomo and U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to “Stop the Bomb Trains”:

    Much more info at Riverkeeper.org/crude

    Thank you Kingston Times for letting us rail on!


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