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The Union Tank Car Co. on Tuesday ordered that 65 of its tankers now being stored on the Saratoga and North Creek Railway line be removed by the middle of next month. The cars were being stored there for a fee by the line's owner, Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings.
"As we have previously explained, all railcar owners store idle railcars from time to time until they can be returned to active service," said William Constantino, general manager for leasing at Union Tank Car Co. "We select the storage provider, but not the precise storage location. We regret the railroad's decision to place some of our railcars in the Adirondack Park, which raised public concern about their effect on the park's beauty and environment."
Constantino continued, "We are acting to remove all Union Tank Car units from the Adirondack Park as soon as possible, relocate them to other areas outside the state of New York until they are returned to service, and ensure none of our cars are stored in the Adirondack Park in the future."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wrote to Buffett this month urging the tankers be removed, thanked the billionaire investor for his "fast response." Union Tank Car Company and its Canadian affiliate, Procor Limited, are subsidiaries of Marmon Holdings, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, which is controlled by Buffett.
"To me, this is not even a close call," said the governor. Last week, Gov. Cuomo moved to get the cars removed and seize control of the rail line from Iowa Pacific Holdings. The governor had the state Department of Environmental Conservation ask the federal Surface Transportation Board to rule that Iowa Pacific Holdings has legally abandoned the line for the allowed purpose of freight hauling.
Such a ruling could allow the state to retake possession of the 30-mile line, which runs from Tahawus in the Adirondacks High Peaks to North Creek in Warren County.
Asked whether the tankers' removal would affect the state's request to the federal government, the governor would remain "on guard" and wait to see if Iowa Pacific attempts to bring in other tankers. "We are prepared to exhaust all legal options to end this practice and keep the constitutionally protected Adirondacks forever wild," he added.
This fall, Iowa Pacific started accepting obsolete DOT-111 oil tanker cars for storage as part of plans to lease enough track space to store 2,000 cars or more. That many cars could stretch for 20 miles if stored end-to-end.
An Adirondack conservation group also praised Buffett's action. "Union Tank Car Co. has shown that it will defend the environmental values of the Adirondack Park, something Iowa Pacific Holdings has shown it is willing to trample to make a buck," said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.
This article first appeared on www.timesunion.com
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