Mayor Bloomberg has actively intervened to thwart a modest, palliative "greening" of solid-waste-by-rail operations. The Mayor opposed tweaks to existing state environmental law that would close current loopholes that benefit railroad and waste management corporations. These loopholes allow freight trains to haul and park open and unsealed cars of solid waste in our communities. The resulting stench, air and water-borne pollution, habitat for disease vectors, and unsightly rail corridor are draining health and value from communities. People are suffering with these problems that are exacerbated by the summer heat. In a late session debate, the Mayor's colleagues invoked his opposition and also took up the arguments of railroad lobbyists (Railroads of New York) and the interests of rail and solid waste management corporations in a debate with Senator Addabbo, who spoke on behalf of citizens. The debate can be accessed starting at 2h 53 min.:
Following are CURES responses to the arguments made by the Senators (major points are in bold and underlined), including those the Senators expressed on behalf of the Mayor, and an email from CURES Co-Chair Laura Zimmer. Laura wrote to Senators Padavan, Farley, and Libous, "I pray daily that legislators will find it in themselves to represent ordinary folks in the same manner that they would represent the wealthy." Amen.
CURES answers to the Bloomberg/Senators' arguments made on the floor of the Senate:
- the city has demonstrated that it has the power to mandate the use of freight rail for transport of city garbage. It already has done so in at least one contract with WM (Varick St.). (PADAVAN)
- the idea that tarps would be a big safety problem is not borne out by the national experience of tarped trucks on interstate highways in the company of passenger vehicles. (PADAVAN)
- the notion that the only alternative to open and unsealed rail cars of garbage is bringing back tractor trailers is a false choice that asks the people to "pick their poison" instead of making corporations clean up the way they do business. (PADAVAN)
- the Senator needs to drive down to communities in Queens, Brooklyn, and Suffolk Co. and see how scenic the view is from backyards, parks, and other properties that open onto stinking loads of garbage. (LIBOUS)
- Assemblymen from Suffolk Co. co-sponsored the assembly version of the bills, proving that it is not just the city's problem. (LIBOUS)
Other answers to Padavan's arguments:
- the city doesn't have to wait to see what its vendors and their vendors dish out. It has a lot of power in this matter. This is an essential city service and a sure source of revenue for companies that make money off it -- WM, the railroads. The city has the power to make sure railroads really are a green mode of transportation for the communities of NYC. Unfortunately, instead in this case the Mayor has used his clout to thwart a modest greening of solid-waste-by-rail operations by actively opposing a tweak to existing state environmental law that would close current loopholes that benefit railroad and waste management corporations.
- the idea that railroads would refuse to carry solid waste if the loads had to be tarped because of liability is all speculative threat. This seems extremely unlikely in light of the substantial percentage of their current business that the solid waste business comprises in the NYC area.
- the waste management companies own the rail cars. Any investments they would have to make in equipment, operations, labor would be offset by depreciation and other tax write offs.
Answers to Farley's arguments:
- his focus is all on the idea that this legislation will place burdens on railroads. This came without even a mention of the role of waste management companies in this business or any regard for the daily problems our communities experience, which were eloquently expressed by our Senator Addabbo.
- is he really making the argument that the solid waste business isn't lucrative unless these primitive practices and equipment are used? Is he really saying that the waste management industry and the portion of railroad business that serves it require subsidies from communities in the form of diminished health, quality of life, and property values or it isn't worth it? That rail doesn't have enough inherent competitive advantages over individual trucks?
Other answers to Libous:
- if trucks still haul open loads of waste through NY State (this is NOT the case in other states) over highways, absolutely they should be tarped.
- economic development would be well served by making these corporations clean up their acts. Manufacturing would benefit -- new equipment and maybe machines. Maybe a few more people would be employed. When did it become fashionable to allow corporations to avoid investing in safety and environmental protection, in newer equipment, operations, and personnel in order to plump up short-term profits? And what about the economic value that is being taken out of communities along the rail line?