The Rally to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains on Saturday, March 7th, co-sponsored by the Coalition to Ban Unsafe trains and Hackensack River Keeper, brought together a variety of organizations, political leaders, and citizens concerned about the safety of the trains carrying the highly volatile Bakken oil passing through our area.
Protestors gathered at the Abram Demaree Homestead after a march from the United Water Company parking lot on Old Hook Road, escorted by police officers from Harrington Park and Closter. Harrington Park was represented by Peter Ardito, Chair of the Environmental Commission, Councilwomen Joon Chung and Michelle Ryan, and Anne and Lynn Lander of the Green Team.
State Representatives Holly Schepisi and Tim Eustace (Districts 39 and 38 respectively), both living in regions that would be directly affected by a train derailment, promised continuing bi-partisan legislative support for the issue.
Councilwoman Chung, representing Harrington Park Mayor Paul Hoelscher and Council spoke about the importance of cooperation among the communities in dealing with the issue.
The Mayor of Bergenfield, Norman Schmelz presented a very personal view of the danger, having been brought up in a house close to the tracks.
Other speakers included Rosemary Dreger Carey from the Coalition, Captain Bill Sheehan from Hackensack River Keeper, and a spokesperson from Mom’s Clean Air Force.
One of the last to speak was Jeff Tittel, Director of the NJ Sierra Club, who addressed the immediate dangers of the trains as a wake-up call to pursue alternatives to oil.
All the speakers emphasized the dangers of these trains traveling at high speed through densely populated areas, as well as the risk of contaminating the water supply for the entire region as these trains cross several reservoirs. It was pointed out that recent accidents involving oil trains happened in relatively low population areas. A similar accident in New Jersey would be a catastrophe.