Albany County won’t lift ban on expanding crude oil operations

Capital New York | May 19, 2015 | Column by Scott Waldman

ALBANY—Albany County will not lift a moratorium on the expansion of crude oil operations at the Port of Albany even if the state approves a controversial project that would open up New York to another type of crude.

An oil train. ( WSHR)

That means the possible approval of a proposal by Global Partners to heat heavy crude at the port may not move forward even if state officials grant the project an air permit, as they have indicated in closed-door meetings with local elected leaders. Global threatened a lawsuit when Albany County executive Dan McCoy first proposed the bill last year. The county has placed a high-powered Boston environmental law firm on retainer. 

Global wants to heat heavy crude at the port so it can transport tar sands crude through New York and ship it down the Hudson River. Tar sands crude, from western Canada, is difficult to get out of the ground and is nearly impossible to clean up when it sinks in water.

In recent weeks, senior officials at the Department of Environmental Conservation have briefed elected leaders in Albany about the difficulty of waging a legal battle against the proposed project. They have said it will be challenging to fight a possible lawsuit from Global if the state misses Thursday's deadline to decide on the project, according to people briefed by the D.E.C. at private meetings.

When McCoy met with senior D.E.C. staff last week, he called on them to conduct a full environmental review of the project, spokeswoman Mary Rozak said Monday. He has made it clear he is not backing down on his moratorium on the expansion of crude handling at the port until a full health review is conducted.

“We need to know how to know that change may impact air quality, may impact the citizenry on a daily basis,” she said. “There are 100,000 people here on a daily basis. Those people need to know what impact that expansion will have on their health.”

Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan has also met with D.E.C. staff. She did not respond to requests for comment. 

On Monday, Democratic assemblywoman Patricia Fahy of Albany said she has expressed serious concerns about the project to the Cuomo administration, and hopes Governor Andrew Cuomo will follow up on his fracking ban from December by blocking an expansion of rail transportation of crude oil in the state.

“I've been tremendously pleased with what the governor has done on fracking,” she said. “I'm surprised he would negate some of that good will by letting tar sands in to the region.”

Environmental and community groups that oppose oil trains have organized a phone campaign to call Cuomo and other elected officials to stop the boiler project. is organizing what it bills as a major protest in front of the D.E.C. headquarters in Albany for Friday.

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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.