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The battle against a controversial rail car storage plan in the Adirondacks has taken a new twist as the Adirondack Council has appealed to Warren Buffett to directly intervene.
Most of the tankers being stored along the Sanford Lake Rail Line in Minerva are owned by subsidiaries of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway corporation, said the environmental group on Tuesday, including the Marmon Group, Union Tank Car Company, Procor and North American Tank Line.
“I respectfully request you do everything in your power to remove these junk tanker cars from the Adirondack Park and prevent them from ever being stored in this magnificent place again,” wrote Adirondack Council Executive Director William Janeway in a letter to Buffett dated Nov. 22.
The letter was buoyed by several email blasts sent to supporters on Tuesday asking them to submit form letters to the investor.
Janeway said the organization isn’t angry with the billionaire.
“He is known as a very smart and generous man,” Janeway said. “Maybe he doesn’t know that his companies are dumping their junked oil tankers in the world’s greatest park. We want to make sure he does know.”
It’s unclear what Buffett could do as the owner of numerous subsidiaries: An email sent to the investor's public email address went unreturned by Tuesday evening.
The tracks are owned by Saratoga & North Creek Railway (SNCR), a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific Holdings.
SNCR President Ed Ellis did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Ellis has said the firm plans on storing up to 2,000 cars on the tracks in order to generate revenue for their ailing passenger operation.
All of the units have been cleaned and certified, he has said. But the Adirondack Council claims otherwise.
“Fresh oil drips on the gravel between the rails leading to the Boreas River show that some of the tankers aren’t empty and may not be properly sealed,” said the group.
While the railway has not commented on the types of cars being stored, pictures reveal many are DOT-111s, the controversial models that ruptured in Lac Megantic, Quebec in 2013, leading to scores of casualties.
The federal Department of Transportation has since ordered the units to be retrofitted and phased out for crude oil shipments.
Environmental groups and local officials claim the storage plan amounts to a junkyard, and may be in violation of state law.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state agencies have criticized the plan, first announced in September, and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) has said she has reached out to the federal Department of Transportation to discuss jurisdictional issues.
Railroads are under federal jurisdiction, and environmental groups have called for the federal Surface Transportation Board to intervene.
“The Adirondack Council is working with attorneys in Albany and Washington, D.C. to secure legal remedies to the junkyard,” said the Adirondack Council in a statement.
At least 60 cars are currently on site along the Boreas River.
The controversy has led to some eyebrow-raising moments.
Adirondack folk singer Dan Berggren released a protest song, “Junkyard Express.”
In response, Ellis issued his own song, “Keeping Tracks.”
This article first appeared on www.suncommunitynews.com
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