Albany County Orders a Halt to Growth in Oil Processing

New York Times | March 12, 2014 | Column by Jad Mouawad

The unexpected decision by the Albany County executive, Daniel P. McCoy, effectively freezes plans by an energy company, Global Partners, to build seven new heating units in Albany until an investigation is done. The long-term effect of the move remains unclear, but growth of oil-related facilities at the port could be slowed if county health officials decide that the oil terminals and shipping facilities have negative effects on residents nearby.

Mr. McCoy said in an interview that he had become increasingly concerned by the growth in rail traffic bringing crude oil from the Bakken oil shale fields in North Dakota, particularly given recent accidents and derailments. Global Partners said it would continue to work with officials “to ensure the safety of our operations.”

The state’s environmental agency is reviewing its permit application for heating units, which are used to heat up tank cars and allow petroleum products to flow out more easily.

In recent weeks, however, state officials have been more proactive. In January, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed his agencies to review emergency response plans and increase rail inspections.

In a statement, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation said on Wednesday that it was “aggressively” reviewing all crude operations around the state.

Mr. McCoy’s move opens up a new avenue. Provided it survives a possible legal challenge, the order would probably supersede the permit that Global is seeking from the state. The order also requires the county’s health department to work with the Albany County sheriff’s office to determine the potential consequences of a large-scale accident.

“We have many questions, but we’re not getting many answers right now,” Mr. McCoy said. “Do we have the resources to deal with something like this? How do we respond? We need to know that. And until we don’t, there will be a moratorium.”

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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.