Repost from Capital Playbook, Albany, NY
[Editor: Significant quote: “The county has placed Mintz Levin on retainer…. The firm will help with a potential legal battle with Global Partners, which has threatened to sue after the county placed a moratorium on expanding crude-handling facilities at the Port of Albany.” (emphasis added) – RS]
Albany County enlists top legal firm for oil train fightBy Scott Waldman | Aug. 22, 2014
ALBANY—Albany County has hired a high-powered Boston environmental law firm to help with its battle against a Fortune 500 company that’s bringing in millions of gallons of crude oil every day.
The county has placed Mintz Levin on retainer, county attorney Tom Marcelle said. The firm will help with a potential legal battle with Global Partners, which has threatened to sue after the county placed a moratorium on expanding crude-handling facilities at the Port of Albany. Marcelle said Albany County has subpeona power and Mintz Levin could be used to enforce the county’s right to question top Global officials if they withhold information the county is seeking.
“The county executive wanted to ensure the people of Albany County had the best to represent their health and safety,” he said.
The county will probably spend up to $100,000 with the firm, Marcelle said.
The firm, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, can also help the county submit comments to the federal Department of Transportation over its proposed new regulations for oil trains. Those federal regulations call for a phasing out of rail cars that transport a certain type of crude. Those cars are more likely to rupture and leak if they derail.
County officials are not happy with the federal proposal because it would still allow those older cars to transport the type of heavy crude Global Partners wants to bring to Albany. That crude from the oil sands of western Canada, also known as tar sands, is nearly impossible to clean up from waterways like the Hudson River because it sinks to the bottom.
The Boston law firm specializes in environmental law and employees about 500 attorneys. It has offices in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and elsewhere. Attorneys at Mintz Levin helped draft the state’s Brownfield pollution mitigation legislation and has defended enforcement actions in federal and state court, according to its website.
Global, which is based in Waltham, Massachusetts and is a Fortune 500 company, threatened legal action against the county shortly after the moratorium was issued, but has yet to file suit.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has taken a more aggressive approach to oil train enforcement than city and state officials and has also proposed a law that would fine oil train operators who fail to quickly report spills. McCoy has appointed a health and safety panel that is examining Global’s crude-handling facilities.
Global wants to build a series of boilers at the port that would allow it to bring in heavy crude oil, like from the oil sands of western Canada.
Albany has become one of the nation’s largest hubs from crude oil from the Bakken formation of North Dakota. The proposed boiler facility would effectively turn New York into a major oil-by-rail pipeline for another type of crude and has generated strong opposition.