NH Executive Council approves rail line lease, control of Westboro Rail Yard

  • Rymes Propane & Oil's location in the Westboro Railyard in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 21, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Westboro Rail Yard, West Lebanon, N.H. Friday, October 9, 2015. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 1/23/2021 12:37:29 AM
Modified: 1/23/2021 12:37:26 AM

CONCORD — The Executive Council’s renewal of a lease Friday for a short stretch of rail line connecting West Lebanon and White River Junction gave a rail company 10 more years of say-so over subleases to operate the propane offloading facility at the Westboro Rail Yard.

It also gave the public a reminder of just how little control the city and state have over safety regulations for the transportation and storage of hazardous materials.

“All (train operators) are required to do is follow federal regulations (which) in some cases preempt state and local regulations,” Victoria Sheehan, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said during a meeting Friday when the five councilors unanimously approved a 10-year renewal of New England Central Railroad’s lease to operate the 2-mile spur that connects the West Lebanon railyard with major lines across the Connecticut River.

Sheehan’s answer came in response to a question put to her by Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, asking for her opinion on whether the agreement incorporates “strong enough safety elements.”

Kenney said some abutters have raised concerns to him about a propane offloading facility now owned by Canadian company Superior Plus, which acquired New Hampshire-based propane distributor Rymes Propane & Oil last year.

Sheehan said the contract renewal before the council for approval was a “discrete matter” for operating trains on the rail tracks, which are owned by the state.

“However, when it comes to the movement of those type of fuels on a railroad, we have to follow all federal laws,” Sheehan said. “So as long as they are operating consistent with those federal guidelines then there would be no reason for us not to move forward with this contract.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

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