Oil trains to pay more in state fees

Times Union | March 31, 2015 | Column by Brian Nearing

Budget also tightens brownfield cleanup subsidies downstate


The state will collect millions of dollars more from companies that ship oil from the Midwest in massive trains that pass through the Capital Region and other parts of the state under language contained in the state budget hammered out by Gov. Andrew Cuomoand lawmakers.

The governor will get fee increases that he asked for on petroleum shipped into or through the state, which will mean about $9 million more for the state Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund. He was rebuffed in his bid to gain control of the fund, which will remain in the hands of the state comptroller.

The budget also extends the costly brownfield pollution cleanup program through 2026 but imposes restrictions on New York City projects' eligibility to receive lucrative tax credits under the program. The initiative has cost the state more than $1 billion so far, which most of the cash going to support new building rather than pollution cleanups.

Under the oil bill agreement, the fee on oil shipped through the state on its way someplace else — which covers the massive Bakken crude oil trains that move through the state on the way to coastal refineries elsewhere — will increase from 1.5 cents per barrel to 13.75 cents per barrel. Fees on oil shipped into New York for storage or refinement here also will increase, but only from 12.25 cents per barrel to 13.75 cents per barrel.

The bill also raises the cap on what the fund can spend on spills from $25 million to $40 million, another change sought by the governor. It also carves out $2.1 million that can be spent for a local agency's efforts toward prevention and preparedness equipment and training.

Bakken crude shipments through the state have surged in the past two years, with the Port of Albany now a major oil terminal for shipment down the Hudson River on tankers or barges. Oil trains also travel south along the river to a refinery in Philadelphia. Critics have warned that increased shipments have raised the probability of a spill.

"Because of the rapid increase in oil shipments, it is important to have more money in the oil spill fund to deal with cleanups," said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Albany-based lobbying group Environmental Advocates of New York. "Such a disaster is more of a matter of 'when' that 'if.'"

[email protected] • 518-454-5094 • @Bnearing10


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Oil trains to pay more in state fees
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.