State threatens sanctions over 'premature' oil train suit

Capital New York | June 3, 2014 | Column by Scott Waldman

ALBANY—The state Department of Environmental Conservation is threatening to seek sanctions against a public housing community group and environmental organizations if they sue the department now over its review of a crude oil storage facility in Albany.

Environmental groups want the state to conduct a full environmental review of a crude oil heating facility proposed by Global Companies LLC. Earthjustice and the Pace Environmental Law Clinic have threatened to sue the D.E.C. and Global if the more extensive review is not granted.

Late last year, state officials initially determined that the facility would not need an extensive environmental review. After intense public scrutiny, the department abruptly declared that it was in the middle of an “interim” review process that could lead to a more through review later.

The company that has proposed the facility, Global Partners of Massachusetts, threatened a lawsuit against the state and warned that an interim review did not legally exist.

Since the entire facility is under review, state officials argue that litigation from the environmental groups would be "premature."

“We believe that no legitimate purpose is served by litigating at this time,” wrote Edward McTiernan, deputy commissioner and general counsel for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “Litigation now could only be intended to harass or to cause needless expenses. Therefore, any claim filed before final action on the permit application would be frivolous and we reserve the right to seek sanctions.”

Earthjustice and Pace are representing tenants of the Ezra Prentice Homes, a public housing project located next to tracks carrying crude oil trains that transport millions of gallons every day.

“We don’t understand why the DEC is threatening us instead of doing the right thing and requiring Global to prepare an environmental impact statement,” Charlene Benton, president of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association said. “We are entitled to our day in court just like anyone else.”

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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.