Environmental Groups Elated Over Governor’s Critique Of Rail Plan

Oct 27, 2017

The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad has brought the first tanker cars it plans to park on a siding in the Adirondacks.  Environmental groups opposing the plan got a boost this week when Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke against the idea.

Twenty-eight used tanker cars now sit on siding near the North Woods Club Road in the town of Minerva.  Brought there last week by the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, the 58-foot-long cars will be parked there until they are once again needed.   

During a visit to Glens Falls this week Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked what he thought about the railroad’s plan.  “They own the track so they believe they have the right to store their trains on their track in the Adirondacks. It is unsightly. It's out of character with the Adirondacks. We don't own the tracks. There's a question as to what legal right we have to oppose it. But we oppose it one hundred percent and we are going to do everything we can do to stop the owner from storing the trains on those tracks.”

Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer is heartened by the governor’s position.   “The big question now is what will the Adirondack Park Agency do? What with the Department of Environmental Conservation do?  We need these agencies to get into the game. And we’re heartened that the governor's comments will lead these agencies to take a hard look at this very controversial proposal.”

The federal government has oversight of railroads so the state may be limited regarding how much it can do. Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says they believe their legal research shows the state has some jurisdiction.  “According to the Surface Transportation Board the state can't enact a law that prevents the railroad from being a railroad. However the state does have a right to enforce environmental laws and if they don't conflict with the transportation of goods the Surface Transportation Board has allowed them to be enforced in the past. So we believe that the state has laws that apply in this case, that the company is clearly doing something that is a change in use on state land.”

Iowa-Pacific Holdings/Saratoga-North Creek Railway CEO Ed Ellis says the tankers are not parked near a river and the only way to see them is to trespass on the tracks.  He notes that their contract is with Warren County and the town of Corinth and they were assured there was no problem with their plan.  “You know I made the offer to Warren County that if they want to buy the line from me and decide that no tankers will be stored or any other kind of cars I would be happy to sell it. If Governor Cuomo wants to buy the line be happy to sell it to the state. But we need the revenue from storage to support the infrastructure all the way from Saratoga Springs north. And if Essex County wants to buy the track we would be open to that too. I mean we invested in the track to save it.”

Ellis says there is space to store a maximum of 2,000 tanker cars but a total number to be parked has not been determined.