How Ready Are We for an Oil Spill into Lake Champlain?

The Joint Lake Champlain Citizens Advisory Committees of Vermont and New York (VTCAC and NYCAC) hosted a special panel discussion for federal and state partners responsible for emergency responses to potential spills of oil and other contaminants transported by rail along and across Lake Champlain and its tributaries.  Representatives from United States Environmental Protection Agency Regions I & II, US Coast Guard, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC), and Vermont Homeland Security and Emergency Management joined the panel, with more than 50 people attending the meeting.

The VTCAC is a 14 member Governor-appointed committee tasked with providing an annual report of Lake Champlain recommendations to the Governor and Legislature (10 VSA 1961). The NYCAC is appointed by the New York General Assembly.

The VTCAC and NYCAC specifically invited these parties because they developed the draft Multi-Agency Contingency Plan for Emergency Environmental Incidents in the Lake Champlain Region. Panelists responded to previously articulated questions ranging from the availability and location of strategic stockpiles of absorbent foam and water booms that contain contaminants to training for cold weather evacuations on soft ice where the ice is not firm enough to safely support foot or vehicle travel.

The discussion focused on the dense and intertwined network of agreements and procedures, including training across jurisdictions that are followed by the panelist organizations in the event of a major environmental catastrophic spill into Lake Champlain that may place residents at risk.

The discussion ended with VTCAC and NYCAC better understanding gaps and needs in the existing emergency response framework. As a governor appointed committee, the VTCAC hopes to appeal to governors, state legislators, and the congressional delegations for resources that will fill those gaps and needs.