The Cheektowaga Town Board voted unanimously last night to ask Albany to re-start inspections on the state's railroad system, as the number of tanker trains carrying potentially explosive crude oil across New York rises. The so-called "bomb trains" can often be found in CSX's Frontier Yard, located just across Broadway from Cheektowaga Town Hall.
"I shudder to imagine what would happen to Broadway Street homes and businesses if an oil train should derail and explode in Sloan," Green Party Activist Sandy Przybylak said during Tuesday's Town Board meeting.
"Long-time Sloan businesses like the R-Bar, Pizza Express, Wally's, the Silver Fox, Overtime Sports Bar and Davron Collision and over two dozen homes could be destroyed in a matter of minutes."
Przybylak and others are issuing their concerns following Friday's derailment of a crude oil train in Doon, Iowa where 32 cars piled up and spilled 230,000 gallons of crude oil onto farms and into waterways. Almost exactly five years ago, a crude oil train derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec and exploded. It leveled the town and killed at least 47 people.
Town Councilman Brian Nowak pointed to government inspections which found "tracks where there were loose bolts and critical defects along with that. So, these inspections are important to keep the people of Cheektowaga safe and people of Western New York safe."
The state had been conducting a robust inspection program, said Charley Bowman, co-chair of the Environmental Justice Task Force of the Western New York Peace Center. That program ended in February, 2017. Activists believe the improving economy and higher crude oil prices are resulting in more trains carrying crude oil and ethanol on rail lines through facilties like Frontier Yard.