Bakken Crude Railed Through Albany

For most of us, most of the time, the underpinnings of American industrialism — from oil extraction to chicken farming– is out of site and out of mind.  When disasters happen, or dissatisfied voices join in protest, we begin to see — this Best of All Possible Worlds has its netherworlds.  The good folks of Albany, New York — that would be the state capital– are the latest to have the bright lights turned on.

Albany has become a major hub for trains carrying oil from the Bakken Formation to the East Coast. Oil leaves Albany for points south via train or tanker down the Hudson River.

Albany has become a major hub for trains carrying oil from the Bakken Formation to the East Coast. Oil leaves Albany for points south via train or tanker down the Hudson River.

Hidden in plain sight, Albany’s oil boom has taken local officials and residents by surprise. Many became aware of the dangers of oil trains after a recent series of derailments and explosions, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec last July, which have generated concerns about growing rail traffic into the city. Trains rumble through the heart of Albany every day and often idle along the busy Interstate 787 highway while waiting to get into the port’s rail yards.

“This has caught everyone off guard,” said Roger Downs, a conservation director at the Sierra Club in Albany.

About 75 percent of Bakken oil production travels by rail and as much as 400,000 barrels a day heads to the East Coast, said Trisha Curtis, an analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation. Albany gets 20 to 25 percent of the Bakken’s rail exports, according to various analyst estimates.

“Albany has become a big hub,” Ms. Curtis said.

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