Push for bills to cover waste on rail cars
by Benjamin Fang
Jul 22, 2020 | 3224 views | 0 0 comments | 227 227 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A group of environmental organizations with the backing of local elected officials is hoping to advance state and federal legislation to put hard tarp covers on trains that carry waste.

Citizens United for Railroad Environmental Services (CURES), a civic organization founded in 2009 to improve railroad infrastructure and safety, along with the Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board Organizing Committee (QSWAB), is pushing for a state bill that would require certain waste to be covered when transported by rail.

Though the State Senate version of the bill, sponsored by State Senator Joseph Addabbo, has moved out of committee in this current session, it’s still stuck in committee in the Assembly.

Last week, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, did not include the bill in the committee’s meeting agenda, despite calls from Queens Community Board 5 and local lawmakers.

“Why is New York State shielding the worst actors in the New York City region’s waste export industry, when companies already are responsibly containing their waste by rail?” asked CURES chair Mary Parisen-Lavelle. “Residents have been asking for relief for more than a decade.

“Yet year after year, New York State fails to clean community air by acting on this legislation,” she added. “With COVID-19, making sure that communities already struggling with poor health care are not further burdened by waste could not be more urgent.”

The legislation has more than two dozen co-sponsors in the Assembly, including Englebright himself.

Last Monday, CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano penned a letter to Englebright, noting that tens of thousands of state residents are adversely affected by construction and demolition debris not being covered during transportation.

“When this debris is not covered, particulates and questionable odors pollute the atmosphere all along the way of transport,” he wrote, “and people are unknowingly breathing this pollution.

“Since there is a major freight rail line in our Queens communities of Glendale, Ridgewood, Middle Village and Maspeth, our residents are very negatively affected by uncovered waste,” Giordano added. “On behalf of our communities of more than 17,000 residents, many of whom are elderly and school-aged children, it is imperative that their respiratory health be protected.”

Another supporter is Congresswoman Grace Meng, whose own legislation requiring covers on trains that transport materials like waste and construction debris was included in the Moving Forward Act, a transportation and infrastructure bill that was passed by the House of Representatives on July 1.

“For too long, our borough has been negatively impacted by freight trains that pass through local neighborhoods filled with trash and debris,” Meng said in a statement. “Residents in these communities have complained about the smell of garbage, and expressed concern about materials flying out of traveling rail cars and trash-filled trains sitting idle on the tracks.”
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