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Citizens' Groups Call Cuomo Administration Crude-by-Rail Threats "Bullying"

Financial sanctions threatened if crude-by-rail terminal expansion lawsuit is filed
Crude oil train.

Train cars carrying oil pour their cargo into tankers and barges that cruise down the Hudson River to East Coast refineries.

Dervin Witmer / Shutterstock
June 3, 2014
Albany, NY —

A coalition of community and environmental organizations today criticized the Cuomo Administration’s threat to seek financial sanctions against tenants of a public housing project and environmental groups if they file a lawsuit challenging a proposed expansion of an Albany Terminal operated by Global Companies, LLC.

The threat of financial sanctions came in a June 2, 2014 letter from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s chief legal officer, Edward McTiernan, which called any contemplated legal action by the coalition “frivolous.” The letter claimed that litigation “could only be intended to harass or cause needless expenses” and concluded by stating that “we reserve the right to seek sanctions” in the event a lawsuit challenging the proposed expansion is filed.

Charlene Benton, president of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association said, “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.  We are entitled to our day in court just like anyone else. Shame on Governor Cuomo and the DEC for attempting to bully the community into silence.”

"It is unconscionable that the Cuomo Administration has decided to financially punish community residents and environmental groups that don’t agree with DEC’s flawed legal position” said Roger Downs, Conservation Director of Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter.  “This is not the way that state agencies are supposed to engage with the public they serve.”

“Apparently DEC would prefer that citizens not raise a fuss about their own safety and the necessity for full environmental review under the law,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “However, when it comes to the well-being of people living along the tracks, and the health of the Hudson River, there is only one right thing to do here, and that is to insist that safety and environmental protection come before bureaucratic expediency and corporate profits.”

Christopher Amato, staff attorney for Earthjustice, said, “DEC could avoid a lawsuit by simply rescinding their finding that Global’s proposed expansion will not have a significant effect on the environment. However, the Department has stubbornly refused to admit that they made a mistake in granting a free environmental pass to Global last November. The Cuomo Administration’s heavy-handed threat will not deter us from filing a court challenge to DEC’s decision to allow environmentally destructive tar sands oil to be imported into New York without a full environmental review.”

Residents of the Ezra Prentice Homes, which directly adjoins the Global facility, and environmental groups have criticized DEC’s failure to require a full environmental impact statement for the proposed expansion, which would allow Global to import tar sands oil by rail from Canada and heat it at the company’s Albany facility.  Global already imports over one million gallons annually of highly volatile Bakken crude oil by rail into its Albany facility.

Rail accidents involving Bakken crude oil have been responsible for a series of catastrophic fires and explosions in recent months, including a July 2013 incident that caused the death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic in Quebec, Canada.

Contacts

Christopher Amato, Earthjustice, (212) 845-7390

Roger Downs, Sierra Club, (518) 426-9144

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.