Benicia decision being felt in Albany NY

Repost from the Albany Times-Herald

Ruling on oil trains hailed

Federal action seen as boost to local, state control over projects

By Brian Nearing, Thursday, September 29, 2016 10:03 pm

ALBANY  >  A federal ruling on a oil-by-rail facility in California could hand state and local officials in New York and across the country a powerful legal tool to oversee the projects, which have been controlled primarily by federal rules.

The federal Surface Transportation Board this month sided with officials in Benicia, a small city near San Francisco, in a dispute with an oil refining company over a proposed storage terminal for crude oil brought in by tanker trains. The Valero Refining Company had argued it was exempt from a city denial because it was functioning as a rail carrier, and governed by federal transportation rules — a legal concept called “preemption” — but the federal board rejected the claim.

“Valero is not a rail carrier, nor is it acting under the auspices of a rail carrier,” according to the federal decision. Critics of oil train traffic directed in recent years to two oil terminals at the Port of Albany hailed the ruling as a victory for more state and local control.

“This puts the state Department of Environmental Conservation in a very strong position to require the oil terminals to explain the full impacts of their operations,” said Chris Amato, an attorney for the not-for-profit environmental group Earthjustice.

This month, the DEC announced it was requiring one terminal operator, Global Partners, to answer additional environmental questions on its request to construct a crude oil heating terminal that could be used to process Canadian tar sands oil.

“Nothing in the opinion suggests that DEC’s current course of action with respect the Port of Albany should be altered,” a DEC statement said.

Critics of earlier DEC environmental approvals for the Global and Buckeye oil terminals have been urging the state to rescind its approvals, but the state had responded that such authority rested with the federal government, not the state.

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