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Protecting the Health of Albany Communities from Crude Oil Shipments

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

What's at Stake

The people living at Ezra Prentice—as well as numerous other residences, businesses, health care facilities, parks, churches and schools in Albany’s South End that are in close proximity to Global’s Albany Terminal—are at risk from breathing in toxic air with excessive levels of ozone.

Case Overview

Train cars carrying crude oil have been derailing and exploding with frightening frequency, in Canada and North Dakota and Alabama and Philadelphia.

At the Albany Terminal in the capital of New York State, train cars carrying oil pour their cargo into tankers and barges that cruise down the Hudson River to East Coast refineries. That facility operated for years as a storage depot. It recently was converted to oil-transfer, and the first ship to be loaded with crude ran aground in the river, but fortunately did not leak.

But with little attention and no serious environmental review, the volume of that oil-transfer doubled in 2012 as the production from fracking fields in North Dakota, Montana, and southern Canada has increased. There are serious environmental justice implications: the transfer facility is adjacent to low-income neighborhoods, which should trigger special consideration by the agency in charge of regulating these operations, but the agency ignored its own regulations.

Now, the company operating the transfer facility has applied for permission to build a new installation to heat oil prior to loading on the ships, which suggests they anticipate receiving thick, heavy crude oil from the tar sands in northern Alberta.

Earthjustice has opposed the oil-heating permit application and has also challenged the failure to do any real environmental analysis of the decision to allow a doubling of the capacity of the plants and challenged the agency's failure to heed its own environmental justice policies.

In 2016, a broad coalition consisting of the County of Albany, a tenants association, and several environmental groups, and represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in federal court charging that the major crude-by-rail conglomerate Global Companies is operating in violation of the Clean Air Act. The lawsuit claims that Global Companies failed to obtain a required air pollution permit and institute necessary pollution controls when it modified its Albany, New York, facility in 2012 to allow a five-fold increase in the amount of crude oil handled at the facility.

Case Updates

February 3, 2016 | Legal Document

Complaint: Benton et al. v. Global Companies

A broad coalition challenges clean air violations at Albany crude-by-rail terminal, citing environmental justice impacts to public housing residents adjacent to the Global facility

July 20, 2015 | Feature

Map: Crude-by-Rail Across America

Railroad shipments of volatile crude oil into America's cities have dramatically increased, with explosive results. See a map of major crude oil train accidents since 2012—and the communities that are fighting back.

October 21, 2014 | Legal Document

Legal Petition for New York State Ban on Bakken Crude Oil Trains

A coalition of local residents, environmental groups and a church today filed a legal petition requesting the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to issue an order prohibiting the receipt and storage of explosive Bakken crude oil in outdated and dangerous DOT-111 tank cars at the Port of Albany.

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