PLATTSBURGH — Rallying at the mouth of the Saranac River, near railroad tracks that often carry oil trains, North Country residents Saturday expressed their opposition to increased crude-oil transport and commemorated the one-year anniversary of a catastrophic derailment in Quebec.
On July 6, 2013, in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, a freight train carrying oil derailed and exploded. At least 42 people died. Five more are missing and presumed dead. About 30 buildings were destroyed.
The event in Plattsburgh was organized by Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist from the Center for Biological Diversity, and drew about 60 people.
Protesters marched across the pedestrian bridge over the Saranac River, many of them carrying orange ribbons intended to represent the danger of fire and explosion from oil trains.
Matteson said that, in addition to the concerns for public safety, oil would threaten the Saranac River, Lake Champlain and the area’s wildlife. “They’re still cleaning up at Lac-Megantic,” she said. “With oil spills, typically only 5 to 25 percent of the oil is cleaned up; the rest just stays there. It has long-term effects for fish and all the way up the food chain.”
In addition to her work with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organization, Matteson cited her personal connection to the area. “I live in Burlington, and I come over to the Adirondacks a lot. This is one of my favorite places to be.” She is eager to see the region protected.
In her speech to the crowd, Matteson called Lac-Megantic: “A town not so different from communities here, where oil trains also run.” Matteson said that more crude oil was spilled from trains in the past year than in the previous 40 years combined.
She concluded: “Oil trains pose an unacceptable risk.”
Councilor Mike Kelly of Plattsburgh’s Ward 2 led the crowd in a chant of “Power to the People,” and then spoke about the Saranac River.