Local officials want state to be more aggressive on oil trains

Capital New York | January 29, 2014 | Column by Scott Waldman

ALBANY—The state increased the number of oil train inspections last year and plans to conduct even more in 2015, but some local officials say it's still not enough.

A tank car carrying crude oil. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

Inspectors checked 7,368 tanker cars and 2,659 miles of track last year, state transportation commissioner Joan McDonald said during a budget hearing Thursday. They found 840 defects, including problems with wheels, brakes and tracks, and 12 hazardous materials violations, McDonald said.

The number of inspections last year was a substantial increase from 2013, McDonald said, adding that even more will be conducted this year.

The regulation of oil trains is largely the purview of the federal government, but the state has some oversight over crude handling facilities. The state Department of Environmental Conservation was close to approving a crude heating facility near the Port of Albany last year, but is now reviewing the project after public outcry. D.E.C. commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday he does not know when that review will be completed.

Local governments along the oil train routes are calling on the state to do more.

Last week, Dutchess County executive Mark Molinaro wrote to the D.E.C. asking the state to conduct a full review of Global Partners' plan to heat crude oil at the Port of Albany. The project needs state approval for air pollution permits. Molinaro said the heavy crude posed a danger to communities in his county, which borders the Hudson River on which much of the crude travels.

“It is my hope that you will consider taking immediate action to order a full environmental impact study, including the potential impacts of a crude oil spill on the Hudson River to our local property and resources before this expansion takes place,” he wrote.

Molinaro said he will ask the legislatures of Dutchess, Ulster, Putnam and Orange counties to consider a moratorium asking for a full environmental review of the project.

Earlier this week, the Albany County Legislature passed a resolution calling on the D.E.C. to conduct a full environmental review of the crude heating facility in Albany. In late 2013, the state declared the project met enough environmental standards that it did not need a full environmental review. The D.E.C. has purportedly been reviewing permits for the facility since early last year.


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Local officials want state to be more aggressive on oil trains
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.