Company to stop storing oil tank cars in Adirondacks

Environmentalists, governor criticized storage in mountains
Empty train cars from the Midwest are stored on unused tracks in the Adirondacks near Minerva on Oct. 25, 2017.
Empty train cars from the Midwest are stored on unused tracks in the Adirondacks near Minerva on Oct. 25, 2017.

ALBANY — A company storing unused rail tanker cars on a rail line in the Adirondacks will stop the practice, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

The governor applauded a decision by Union Tank Car Co. of Chicago, whose major investors include Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, to stop storing its cars on a remote stretch of tracks along the Boreas River, between North Creek and Tahawus, on the edge of the High Peaks.

The storage, which began in October, has been criticized by Adirondack environmental groups and Cuomo, who last week made removal of the stored cars one of his 2018 State of the State proposals.

“The Adirondack Park is one of New York’s great natural jewels and a driver of the North Country’s economy, and never should have been used as a glorified junk yard,” Cuomo said in a statement late Tuesday. “The Berkshire Hathaway’s Union Tank Car Co. ultimately did the right thing by heeding our call to remove these eyesores from the Adirondack Park.”

Union Tank Car Co.’s decision only affects the tank cars it owns, but Cuomo urged the company behind the overall rail storage proposal, Iowa Pacific Holdings, of Chicago, to also “cease and desist storing any future railcars on the Tahawus Branch,” Cuomo said. Nearly all the roughly 75 cars currently being stored in the Adirondacks belong to Union Tank Car.

Cuomo has threatened legal action if the storage doesn’t end. Cuomo wrote a letter to billionaire Buffett, one of America’s most famous investors, urging him to intervene to stop storage by the company he owns.

Iowa Pacific Holdings, which owns the tracks and operates the Saratoga & North Creek Railway tourism line, has made clear that the tourism line looses money, and it needs new ways to generate tourism revenue to support the line. A proposal to store empty oil tank cars in 2015 met resistance and was withdrawn, but this year the company began storing old cars, only to run into new resistance.

Railroads are generally governed by federal transportation law. The federal Surface Transportation Board in 2012 granted Iowa Pacific the rights to the track, which was built during World War II to bring titanium ore out of mines at Tahawus. The tracks run through otherwise wilderness lands, and some environmental groups have urged that they be considered abandoned.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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