Concerns about the safety of crude oil transportation continue to rise in Albany’s South End

Troy Record | May 2, 2014 | Column by Danielle Sanzone

ALBANY >> With the recent train derailment and oil spill along the James River in Virginia, a group in Albany gathered near a local railyard Thursday to bring further attention to the local debate over the safety of crude oil transport. 

Albany residents voice their concerns about oil tankers during a demonstration near the Ezra Prentice Homes on South Pearl Street in Albany, N.Y., on Thursday, May 1, 2014 . J.S. CARRAS - THE RECORD

“It’s scary,” said Elenora McCargo-Smith, who has lived at the Ezra Prentice residences along South Pearl Street in the city’s South End for about three years. “I live in the back, right next to the trains...I’m here wondering if something will happen and waiting.” 

The topic has been discussed frequently this spring with many South End residents worried about a disaster happening in their own backyards—literally. 

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy responded in March with a moratorium on Massachusetts-based Global Partners’ proposal to expand crude oil processing to include an heating facililty at the Port of Albany. 

“The action we are taking in Albany County would consider all the risks to the public and would provide us with a road map to work with first responders, health officials and other entities to respond to a disaster and ensure that we have done all we can to prepare,” said McCoy this week. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office issued a press release Thursday which stated that there was another round of targeted inspections of freight rail cars and tracks across New York state to ensure compliance with safety regulations for transporting crude oil through the state. The inspections, which covered nearly 700 tank cars and 152 miles of track across upstate New York, found numerous incidents of defective, broken or missing mechanical equipment and placards. 

The People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) said at a demonstration Thursday that they would like a permanent moratorium on the transport of crude oil through the Capital District. 

“It’s satisfying that there is more awareness, but we still have a long way to go,” said Frank Sullivan of Albany, who lives up the hill from the Global Partners’ rail site. 

Brad Russell of Albany said he was amazed at how much more oil has been transported through the area recently compared with a few years ago. He reiterated that few knew about crude oil transportation in the area until recently. 

“No one knew about this six months ago,” Russell said. “And it went from zero gallons of oil going through to millions now.” 

He pointed out that now there is a reported oil spill or derailment every couple months in North America. 

In a release issued Wednesday, Global Partners said it will voluntarily begin requiring compliance with CPC-1232 rail car design standards for all crude oil unit trains arriving at its East and West Coast terminals. The program will be phased in at Global’s crude-by-rail receiving facilities in Albany, New York, and Clatskanie, Oregon, starting June 1, officials said. 

On Tuesday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation presented an air quality testing plan to South End residents and received public input. The DEC now plans to implement that testing in the city’s South End neighborhood. The initial screening will determine a baseline of current air quality conditions and will help to determine if further sampling or enhanced inspections of the facilities at Port of Albany are necessary, state officials said. 

While sitting near the development’s playground, another Ezra Prentice resident, Charlene Benton, 63, said she has seen some progress. 

“But it’s not enough,” she said, adding that she would not only like to see even more of her neighbors involved in the process, but also have an evacuation plan in place. 

Danielle Sanzone may be reached at 270-1292.

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commented 2014-05-03 23:31:43 -0400 · Flag
Thanks to Danielle Sanzone of the Troy Record for covering our protest.
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.