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More action sought on oil trains

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Shipments of crude oil by rail are on the rise.

“Every day across Upstate New York, oil railcars laden with Bakken crude pass through backyards and by schools and homes and near places of business, putting communities in Upstate New York at risk if tank cars derail or puncture,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in a news release.

“It is clear to me that we need an all-of-the-above approach to safety, so I am urging the Federal Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy to finally publish and finalize standards that will stabilize highly explosive crude oil before shipping it through Upstate New York.”

LOCAL TASK FORCE

Schumer said those regulations are an additional layer of safety that New Yorkers deserve and would help keep communities safer.

“We have tank cars barreling through communities throughout the state on a daily basis, and we should leave no stone unturned to further protect residents,” he said.

The Clinton County Oil Train Task Force, made up of several local elected officials within the county, was formed in 2015 to research oil trains in the area.

The group found that as many as 30 trains, hauling up to 300,000 gallons of crude oil pass through the county each week.

At the Task Force’s urging, eight municipalities in the county — the City and Town of Plattsburgh; the towns of AuSable, Beekmantown, Champlain and Saranac; and the villages of Rouses Point and Champlain — all agreed to send letters to the state and federal government asking for better regulations regarding oil trains.

MORATORIUM

The city also approved a resolution asking for a moratorium on trains coming through the city in February of 2016.

The resolution was sent to the federal delegations of New York and Vermont, but no action was taken.

STABILIZE CRUDE OIL

Schumer is now demanding that the Department of Transportation and Department of Energy propose and quickly finalize volatility standards that will stabilize highly explosive crude oil before shipping it through New York.

He said current law allows dangerous crude oil to be shipped by rail without being stabilized, making violent explosions far more likely.

Also, Schumer said, DOT and DOE should complete the ongoing formal process requesting comments from stakeholders and studying how crude oil properties affect its combustibility in rail accidents, which would inform the new rule.

LAC MEGANTIC

According to a new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the volume of oil shipped by rail is again on the rise.

Refineries in the Northeast used about 3.1 million barrels of oil in March, a level not seen since early 2017.

Schumer said that this news, in conjunction with the fact that next month is the fifth anniversary of the tragic explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec, which left 47 people dead, makes the issue of oil-by-rail safety urgent.

“The bottom line is any time you are transporting volatile chemicals, there is a risk of explosion,” he said.

“Things like safer tank cars, better braking, and lower speed limits, they all help make the rails safer.

“But when it comes to crude, one of the most powerful things we could do would be to set a good standard for the stability of what’s actually inside the tank cars.”

Source: http://www.pressrepublican.com/news/local_news/more-action-sought-on-oil-trains/article_1961da9d-9199-5b7e-ac5c-8d1a3d62ca4b.html

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry live wax figures are creeping people out

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Ho, ho — huh?!

New live wax figures of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are helping to get the festivities started at Berlin’s Madame Tussauds museum this holiday season. But some fans of the royal couple think the figures are creepier than they are cute.

The replicas, which were unveiled on Tuesday, are really two actors impersonating Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, by wearing silicone masks that look like the duo.
The pair don festive Christmas sweaters and busy themselves decorating a Christmas tree and opening gifts, among other yuletide activities.

The actress portraying the royal mom-to-be even sports a baby bump beneath her grey elf sweater, and, as you can imagine, some cradling of the fake bump takes place, too.
To get folks excited about the new figures, the museum brought them along to meet shoppers at a local holiday market in the city last week.

Reactions to the live figures on social media have been mixed, to say the least.

“The Harry and Meghan live wax figures are back and scarier than ever,” one Twitter user wrote next to a gallery of pics.

“I find this so incredibly creepy … on many levels,” wrote another.

One predicted photos of the faux Harry and Meghan would “haunt me in my sleep.”

Meanwhile, another Twitter user found a diplomatic way to sidestep giving a critique.

Source: https://www.today.com/popculture/meghan-markle-prince-harry-live-wax-figures-are-creeping-people-t145005

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‘Green Monday’ brings back some great Black Friday deals

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the best times to find deals on pretty much anything on your holiday shopping list. But retailers will always come up with another shopping holiday to tempt you. Alas, “Green Monday” is a thing.

Green Monday offers some repeats of Black Friday favorites — plus a few new deals. If you already accomplished the majority of your holiday purchases, there’s little reason to dive in, but it can’t hurt to make sure you’ve run through your checklist.

Here are the best deals that we’ve seen so far today. We’ll be adding more (and striking through items that are sold out) throughout the day.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/good-deals/2018/12/10/18134346/green-monday-black-friday-deals-tech-games-smart-home-phones

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‘Gridlock Sam’ says driverless cars could impact urban sprawl

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Driverless cars, known by the more scientific-sounding name autonomous vehicles, may change the shape of suburban development, according to Sam Schwartz, aka “Gridlock Sam” and a former New York City traffic commissioner.

Schwartz, who also is known as “Gridlock Sam” by virtue of his column with that title appearing in the New York Daily News, was the luncheon keynote speaker Dec. 6 when Pace University’s Land Use Center presented its 17thAnnual Alfred B. DelBello Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference.

Schwartz addressed about 250 developers, consultants, local leaders, attorneys and other professionals gathered at the Pace campus in White Plains. His firm, Sam Schwartz Transportation Consulting, specializes in transportation planning and engineering. Schwartz owns a house in Somers and is quite familiar with suburban driving, commuting patterns and traffic jams. His new book, “No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future,” looks at the inevitability of autonomous vehicles, the problems they may cause and the benefits they might provide.

In an interview with the Business Journal, Schwartz said, “Imagine someone from Westchester who works in Manhattan. The autonomous vehicle takes that person there; that person is at work at 9 o’clock and tells the autonomous vehicle ‘you know it costs $80 to park here for the day, why don’t you just drive back home to Westchester and wait until I tell you that I’m ready to leave.’”

In addition to doubling the number of miles traveled on the area’s roads as a result of cars making one leg of a round trip empty, Schwartz suggests driverless cars may encourage people to live farther away from urban centers.

“Suddenly the car becomes much more comfortable and you can get lots of things done, even sleep done in your car.” Schwartz said that Putnam and Dutchess and other counties “will be commuter areas and sprawl will increase to many areas that really can’t support it.”

Schwartz was only half-joking when he said that we’ve got to watch out for empty “zombie cars” taking over. “The traffic could very well get much worse because there will be more vehicle miles traveled, more cars on the road than ever before.”

The current interest among developers and municipalities in transit-oriented developments may help keep cars off the roads, Schwartz suggested. “Building town centers where you can walk and you have greater accessibility to local stores that’s terrific, but there is going to be a tension out there if we rely on the autonomous vehicle to drive us further and further out and encourage sprawl.”

He said there is a definite positive trend taking shape right now regarding traffic levels. “Younger people, millennials, are driving far less than previous generations. There’s a 20 percent drop in the amount of driving that millennials do compared to any other generation that came of age,” he told the Business Journal.

Getting to the train station is an area where Schwartz believes autonomous vehicles could have a big impact on life in the suburbs. They could “…take you that last mile or two or five miles to a train station to drop you off and pick you up when you come back.

Christopher B. Leinberger, chair of the Center for real Estate and Urban analysis of the George Washington University School of Business was the opening keynote speaker at the event. Councilwoman Emily Svenson and Planning Board Chairman Michael Dupree of the Town of Hyde Park received Groundbreaker’s Awards. Richard L. O’Rourke of the law firm Keane & Beane PC was the Founder’s Award recipient. The Distinguished Young Attorney Award went to Noelle C. Wolfson of the law firm Hocherman Tortorella & Wekstein LLP. Breakout sessions covered subjects such as smart growth, maintaining water and sewer infrastructure, land use law and environmental regulations.

Tiffany Zezula, deputy director of the Pace Land Use Law Center, told the Business Journal that the center stages the Alfred B. DelBello Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference to act as a facilitator for sharing information and encouraging discussion of new ways to plan, regulate and design communities. “We are an educational entity. We don’t take any positions,” Zezula said. “The Land Use Law Center is actually celebrating its 25thanniversary, so we are thrilled about that.”

Source: https://westfaironline.com/109406/gridlock-sam-says-driverless-cars-could-impact-urban-sprawl/

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