Oil by Rail in the Northeast

Every week tens of millions of gallons of explosive Bakken crude oil are transported in outdated train tanker cars over an aging rail infrastructure from Montreal, Quebec, to Albany, New York. An oil train derailment along Lake Champlain or the Hudson River could be devastating to the region's people, wildlife, and natural resources.

The National Wildlife Federation, along with our affiliates and partner organizations, works to petition for the end to the dangerous practice of transporting oil by rail in the Northeast.

The Dangers of Oil by Rail

Oil by Rail Train, Shutterstock

The Bakken crude oil that is transported by rail along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River is exceptionally explosive. Moreover, tar sands oil, which oil companies would also like to move along this route, is both explosive and nearly impossible to clean up once spilled. The rail line from Montreal to Albany travels directly along the western shores of Lake Champlain, through dozens of vulnerable New York downtowns and communities. The rail line also travels across the Hudson River and many other waterways before ending at a port in Albany on the Hudson River—passing neighborhoods, schools, and businesses on its way. The tracks on which these trains travel are aging in many areas, while rail bridges date from post-Civil War through the Eisenhower era. Though these bridges are inspected by rail companies, inspection findings are not released to the public.

What's at Stake

Shipping oil along our rails risks irreplaceable human life and the health of invaluable natural resources that provide important habitat. As long as we continue to use the Montreal-to-Albany rail line for oil transport, we risk:

Eliminating the Risks on Our Rails

Oil train transportation along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River must be stopped by congressional action. There is currently no safe way to transport oil by trains—and with declining oil use, particularly in the Northeast, there is no need to move oil by rail along aging tracks in a sensitive and remote region. The threat is imminent, and no community can afford a tragedy like that of the horrific 2013 oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people and incinerated the downtown in an enormous explosion. Nor can we risk the impacts to wildlife that an oil-by-rail disaster would cause to an important natural treasure like Lake Champlain. We should be using our rail system for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by efficiently transporting safe commodities, and people, in trains.

Learn More

Report – Tar Sands at Our Doorstep: The Threat to the Lake Champlain Region's Waters, Wildlife, and Climate
Fact Sheet – Oil By Rail: Lake Champlain & Hudson River Region
Letter to Members of Congress from the Oil by Rail Coalition

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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