Thursday, August 26, 2010

Votes Still Needed for Trash Train Legislation

By Eric Yun

Trains hauling garbage through the neighborhood emit nauseating odors that have residents demanding action. In response, state Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) have introduced a number of bills targeting these noxious “stink trains.”

Residents have been complaining for the past year about idling trains and the smell from trains transporting trash through the neighborhood. Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) have been pushing to curb idling trains, noise and security in Middle Village and Glendale. As a result of the community’s concerns, Addabbo and Hevesi have sponsored four bills aimed at eliminating the odor.

Bill S7153/A10176 creates new guidelines for waste trains at New York transfer stations. The bill would require waste trains to have hard lids or tarps to prevent odors and spills that might occur. The Environmental Conservation Committee voted 13-0 in favor of the bill, and the Rules Committee passed the bill 22-1.

Similarly, Bill S7591/A10819 would call for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to require trains hauling trash to install hard lids or tarps. The MTA leases their railways to companies to haul waste. Bill S7591/A10819 passed the Senate Rules committee 21-2.

Both bills are being held as Addabbo and Hevesi work to get the votes needed to pass a full vote.

One person who appears to be the biggest critic of the bills is Senior Assistant Majority Leader and Transportation Committee Chairperson Martin Malavé Dilan (D- Brooklyn). Dilan was the only nay vote on Bill S7153 and one of the two nay votes on S7591 committees.

A cursory look at Dilan’s campaign finance reports reveals he has received numerous donations from railroad companies in the last two years. CSX, one of the companies that transport waste through the area, donated $600 last year.

A spokesman for Senator Dilan’s legislative office explained to The Forum that the bills are a duplication of industry standards that are already in place. Companies generally use mesh netting for non-putrescible waste and hard caps for putrescible waste. He also explained adding hard tarping to non-putrescible waste can lead to breaking debris that destroys hard tarping.

Furthermore, Dilan’s office contends that waste haul through railroads is necessary. One railcar transporting trash replaces hundreds of garbage trucks travelling through the city. They added the legislation would be an unnecessary burden for rail companies, as it would add roughly $1.20 per ton of trash to install hard caps.

Two other bills dealing with waste trains have also been introduced. Bill S7595/A10820 provides provisions for railcar companies to reimburse neighborhoods in the event of a spill or disaster. Bill S7261/A10396 increases civil penalties for rail companies that do not follow current environmental laws.

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