A broad coalition consisting of national environmental groups, Albany Common Council members, and a local tenant association today sent a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph J. Martens urging that DEC require Global Companies, LLC (Global) to provide a full response by no later than May 3, 2014 to previous information requests made by DEC. The requests, set forth in a March 24, 2014 letter from DEC to Global, seek additional details concerning Global’s current and planned operations. The coalition’s letter states that the May 3 deadline is necessary so that any new information submitted by Global can be incorporated into public comments, which must be submitted to DEC by June 2, 2014.
Additionally, citing a recent enforcement action by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality charging Global with significant permit violations at its facility in Oregon, the coalition is calling on DEC to conduct an independent audit of crude oil shipments currently moving or proposed to be moved through Global’s Albany and New Windsor, New York terminals. The coalition pointed out that environmental and public health impacts are based on the volume of crude oil shipments, but that the numbers provided by Global have not been independently verified by DEC.
“Oregon’s environmental agency has charged Global with moving more than 30 times the permitted amount of crude oil through the company’s terminal in Oregon. The people who live next door to Global’s operations in New York deserve to know whether the same thing is happening here. The health and safety of these at-risk communities depend upon accurate and complete answers to the many questions concerning Global’s secretive crude oil expansion plans,” said Earthjustice attorney Christopher Amato.
"Affected communities and concerned citizens deserve straight and timely information about dangerous and polluting crude oil cargos. Corporate secrecy has never been good news for public health and environmental protection; we need DEC to insist on transparency," said Mollie Matteson, Senior Scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “After two years of relative secrecy, the public finally has the opportunity to weigh in on New York’s emergent crude oil export facilities. But without independently verified information detailing the number of oil cars passing through Albany or the hazardous nature of the crude these rail cars carry, New Yorkers will continue to be in the dark about this serious threat to public health and safety.”
“Global’s proposal to transport heavy crude through the Hudson Valley will present untold dangers to our communities and our waterways,” said Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper’s Watershed Program Director. “Our river demands answers to the many questions we and DEC have asked on safety, the amount of crude being handled, and response capacity, which the company has to date refused to give. We’ve come too far in a long history of remediating the havoc that has been wreaked by prior industrial activities to open the door to this new, extremely toxic threat.”
“Global was playing with the numbers in Oregon and they may be doing the same here. It is the DEC's job to verify what is actually happening,” said Wes Gillingham, Program Director for Catskill Mountainkeeper.
Within the past year, over one billion gallons of explosive Bakken crude oil has been shipped into the Port of Albany by rail, hundreds of crude oil rail cars are stored just feet away from homes and playgrounds, and long lines of crude oil rail cars routinely stretch for miles along Interstate 787 through the heart of downtown Albany. These threats place homes, schools and businesses in harm’s way. Global’s latest proposal to again expand its operations to include handling and heating tar sands oil from Canada poses additional significant environmental and public health risks.
The dangers of rail transport of highly flammable, explosive Bakken crude oil are well-documented, with recent derailments causing fires, explosions, fouling waterways, and even incinerating towns. In fact, more oil was spilled due to train derailments in 2013 than in the previous 40 years combined.
In addition to an imposed deadline for Global’s responses, the groups reiterate a previous request that DEC withdraw its Notice of Complete Application for Global’s proposed expansion of its Albany Terminal operations, pending Global’s full and adequate responses to DEC’s March 24 letter. The coalition also urges the DEC to require Global to submit monthly reports to DEC detailing crude oil shipments at its Albany and New Windsor terminals, and provide this critical information to the public as it becomes available.
Public interest law firm Earthjustice submitted the letter on behalf of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association, Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, Albany Common Council members Dorcey Applyrs, Vivian Kornegay, Leah Golby, Judd Krasher, and Judy Doesschate, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Hudson Riverkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Scenic Hudson, Environmental Advocates of New York, Catskill Mountainkeeper, and People of Albany United for Safe Energy.