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State Plans Aggressive Action To Stop Rail Car Storage In Adirondacks

Line of oil tankers along the Boreas River
Brendan Wiltse Photography
Adirondack Council
Line of oil tankers parked along the Boreas River

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been outlining the priorities in his upcoming State of the State address.  This week he announced that his eighth proposal for 2018 is action to stop rail car storage in the Adirondack Park.
New York state is taking several actions to stop Iowa Pacific Holdings from continuing its plan to store up to 2,000 rail cars on tracks in Warren and Essex counties in the Adirondacks.  Governor Cuomo says the state would take legal action to halt the rail car storage.  In a press release, Cuomo said, “New York is prepared to exhaust all legal options to end this practice once and for all…”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a cease and desist order demanding that the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific, immediately stop any future storage of rail cars and remove existing stored rail cars.  The state has also filed a petition with the federal Surface Transportation Board outlining its arguments against the railroad’s continued use of the rail line.
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer says the state’s petition correctly outlines the arguments showing that the railroad is not appropriately using the tracks.  “The history of the park; the Article XIV protections under the state Constitution; the unique history of that rail line and how the impacts from storage are fundamentally different from the uses of the rail line for transportation.  And hopefully those things will have an impact on the Surface Transportation Board’s ultimate decision.”

Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan finds the state’s arguments on solid legal footing.   “We believe that the state has a right to prevent a commercial junkyard from being created especially on the Forest Preserve and certainly without a permit.  We’ve thought all along that the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency had jurisdiction here.”  

The rail company leases part of the tracks under an agreement with Warren County.  Board of Supervisors Chair Ron Conover notes that the board passed a resolution opposing the storage of rail cars anywhere in the Adirondacks.  He says it is extremely significant that the governor and state are dedicating resources to challenge the rail company’s action.  “The rail cars themselves are unsightly.  Who knows how many locations we could end up with over time? The condition of the cars has been drawn into question. A lot of these cars have graffiti on them. Speaking in terms of Warren County, you know, it’s not the reason that we got into the rail business to begin with.  We entered the rail business as an economic development initiative to promote our tourism and visitor traffic.  So it’s not the kind of use that we believe enhances the Adirondack experience.”

Many of the currently stored rail cars are near the town of Minerva.  Town Supervisor Stephen McNally says while most of the cars are not visible, many people are angry they are being stored in the Adirondacks.  “We appreciate what the governor is doing on this.  We’re in the Adirondack Park.  It’s pristine wilderness and basically we’re being used as a dumping ground for these storage cars.  I’ve been dealing with this railroad for the last few years and I think that this will be resolved quite quickly. The railroad has done this in other areas of the country and I’ve followed up on some of it. This is usually trying to get some trade off to get these cars off there. And Mr. Ellis said at the board in Warren County when we were there that you know if you pay me money I won’t do this. So money is the root of all this evil here basically.”

Calls to Iowa-Pacific Holdings President Ed Ellis were not returned in time for broadcast.

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