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Heather Nellis
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., center, speaks at the Old Montgomery County Courthouse in Fonda Wednesday after a meeting with county legislators and Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, third from right. Shown from the left are Executive Matthew Ossenfort, District 9 Legislator Alex Kuchis, District 3 Legislator Roy Dimond, Schumer, Thane, District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz and District 2 Legislator Thomas Quackenbush.


Schumer drops by to meet new county legislature

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - Updated: 7:56 PM


For the C-S-E

FONDA -- U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., met with Montgomery County's new legislature at the Old County Courthouse Wednesday to field concerns and relay federal initiatives to benefit the county.

"I thought in their first three weeks I would sit down and talk to them to see how it's going, and the challenges ahead, and to see the kinds of things we can do for Montgomery County," Schumer said.

Schumer held a closed-door session with most of the county's legislators, Executive Matthew Ossenfort, and Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane.

Then, Schumer held a press conference during which he talked about his efforts relevant to the county.

Schumer said one of his priorities is improving rail safety, considering the CSX line that runs through the county has seen an uptick in the number of trains transporting hazardous materials.

Forty percent of the oil that's drilled in North Dakota is transported through upstate New York before it's sent on barges to refineries in New York City, Schumer said.

"In the last two years, the number of tanker cars that carry tanker oil from North Dakota has increased," Schumer said. "There are several hundred that go through here every day. God forbid if there was ever one that derailed, we could have serious, serious issues. We have a lot of heavily populated areas that these tracks are running through."

Schumer referenced the June 2013 double-freight train derailment that occurred a mile west of Fonda. Of the 49 loaded cars that crashed off the track, none contained hazardous materials, but it could easily have been a different story.

"Our oil tanker cars are not up to snuff," Schumer said. "The National Transportation Safety Board has said that they are not constructed to prevent a major explosion in the event of a derailment. It could cause major loss of life and property."

Schumer said he's been pushing the federal Department of Transportation and federal Railroad Administration to require safer tank cars to transport crude oil.

At a recent task force meeting between the two agencies, Schumer said there was discussion about the speed of the trains, but no requirement has been issued forcing the upgrade of the tankers.

"I've assured the folks here that I'll continue to work to see that thousands of existing tankers are upgraded," Schumer said. "Some companies have already upgraded, but others are not. The oil companies that own the cars are making a huge amount of money on this new oil, and that's great, but they can put a little money into upgrading the cars."

Schumer then talked about his efforts to earmark federal dollars for flood recovery and mitigation in the wake of severe flooding in Fort Plain in June.

Last week, Schumer announced the U.S. Geological Survey's National Streamflow Information Program will receive $33.7 million this year. It's a $6 million year-to-year increase.

The additional funds will help the agency keep existing gauges online, protect threatened gauges, and potentially allow the survey to add more flood-detection devices in high-risk flood zones in upstate New York, once the Federal Emergency Management Agency evaluates its budget.

Schumer said considering the death of Fort Plain resident Ethel Healey during June flooding, the importance of more flood gauges cannot be understated.

"If we can put flood gauges in the right places, people will get warnings hours and hours ahead of time before the waters crest," Schumer said. "Mrs. Healey passed away ... but if we would have had flood gauges there, there would have been enough warning, and everyone could have been evacuated."

Schumer said he's going to work hard to make sure the gauges are placed on relevant water bodies, including the Otsquago Creek, which runs through Fort Plain and empties into the Mohawk River.


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