Cuomo looks to boost oil spill fund cap

Times Union | January 19, 2015 | Column by Matthew Hamilton

Governor wants to raise cap on state's oil spill response coffers

Traffic backs up on N. Ferry St. as a train moving oil tank cars passes Friday Nov. 21, 2014, in Albany, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union)

Albany

Amid a boom in oil trains rattling along rails in the Capital Region and statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to raise the cap on the state's oil spill fund from $25 million to $40 million.

The proposal will come as part of his executive budget being unveiled along with his State of the State address on Wednesday. The initiative would not only increase the cap but also would upgrade geographically specific spill response plans for state and federal officials, establish a state liquid firefighting task force that would be in charge of deploying flammable liquid firefighting foam and other supplies along rail lines across the state and provide more training for local fire crews who would often be first responders to spills. The state would build its foam stockpiles.

Because the proposal is part of Cuomo's budget, it will require legislative approval.

The $25 million cap was instated in 1977, but Cuomo administration officials speaking on background said the cost of a catastrophic spill disaster would exceed that amount. According to the state comptroller's office, the fund is set up to pay for spill cleanup and compensate spill victims when the spiller won't pay up. Under Cuomo's proposal, the fund could be used for preventative measures.

The officials said the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Homeland Securityhelped devise the new $40 million number. To get there, the state would use a tax it already levies against companies that transport oil through New York.

The new proposal builds on steps the Cuomo administration already has taken as hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per year have been transported across New York enroute to refineries in New Jersey and Canada. Last year, the governor sent a letter to the Obama administration urging immediate strengthening of national crude oil transport standards and regulations. That was coupled with increased rail inspections that the administration has touted as already having found deficiencies in various sections of track, including in the Capital Region.

Oil train traffic has exploded in the United States since companies began sucking oil up from the Bakken fields of North Dakota in recent years. Federal statistics show more than 672,000 oil tanker cars traveled across the country through the first 10 months of last year. That was more than double the number of oil tankers that moved through the first 10 months of 2011.

The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services revealed recently that as many as 42 oil trains per week were coming into Albany.

The city has become a point of convergence for trains coming from the western part of the state and Canada. Some oil is unloaded at the Port of Albany for shipment by boat. Other tanker cars continue moving south or north to refineries.

Albany officials have made their presence felt as the area has become a virtual oil transportation capital. County Executive Dan McCoy issued a moratorium on a project byGlobal Partners — a Port of Albany tenant — to build a crude oil heating facility that would make it easier to pump in cold weather and has been vocal about the threat that the trains pose to communities situated beside train tracks.

mhamilton@timesunion.com • 518-454-5449 • @matt_hamilton10

http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Cuomo-looks-to-boost-oil-spill-fund-cap-6026040.php

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment


PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE works to promote safe, sustainable energy and environmental justice.  We aim to engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry's assault on the people of Albany and our environment.