Tag Archives: Port of Albany

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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    NORTHEAST PUBLIC RADIO: Advocates Call On Feds To Ban Rail Transport Of Bakken Oil

    Repost from WAMC Northeast Public Radio
    [Editor:  Significant quote: “More than 80 environmental, business, recreational and other organizations along with former members of state agencies, current and former state legislators and both the Plattsburgh and Burlington City Councils have signed a letter to the Vermont and New York Congressional delegation calling for a ‘federal legislatively imposed ban on the transport of oil along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.'”  – RS]

    Advocates Call On Federal Officials To Ban Rail Transport Of Bakken Oil

    By Pat Bradley, Apr 14, 2016
    PAT BRADLEY/WAMC

    A coalition of environmental and municipal officials stood in a park overlooking the Saranac River and a rail trestle this morning. They announced a new effort to convince federal representatives from New York and Vermont to ban crude oil transport in order to protect Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

    The group met at MacDonough Park across from City Hall. The park is only a few hundred yards from a rail trestle that daily sees trains carrying crude oil cross over the Saranac River as it empties into Lake Champlain. The advocates say transporting Bakken oil by rail remains an unacceptable risk to Vermont and New York, and is especially hazardous to the sensitive ecosystems of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.

    More than 80 environmental, business, recreational and other organizations along with former members of state agencies, current and former state legislators and both the Plattsburgh and Burlington City Councils have signed a letter to the Vermont and New York Congressional delegation calling for a “federal legislatively imposed ban on the transport of oil along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.”

    National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel Jim Murphy outlined a precipitous increase in rail accidents nationally over the past three years and says the oil trains that travel along Lake Champlain are too dangerous. “We have concluded that there is no safe way to transport this oil at this time. The trains that roll along this lake are sometimes twice the length of the train that destroyed Lac Megantic. The danger is just simply too high.”

    Plattsburgh Ward One City Councilor Rachelle Armstrong called the oil trains travelling through the city an ominous problem. “Our municipalities need to stand up and become the advocates in a bold and aggressive way so that we bring the attention to bear on this issue that our leaders at the federal level need to recognize.”

    The rail corridor along Lake Champlain also passes through the Adirondack Park. Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says the trains pose a significant risk to the largest park in the contiguous United States. “This is also considered to be a biosphere reserve by the United Nations. The danger here is also to a drinking water supply for one hundred eighty thousand people. Lake Champlain serves as water for people from Vermont, New York and Quebec. So we have grave concerns about the environment, about communities and about wild lands here and we’re hoping that the federal government takes them seriously.”

    The trains carrying Bakken crude travel 100 miles along Lake Champlain and through the Adirondacks to the Port of Albany. Lake Champlain Committee Executive Director Lori Fisher believes a catastrophic accident is not a matter of if, but when. “In the past we have pushed for a ban on the DOT-111’s. That hasn’t happened. There’s been some movement to upgrade trains to the twelve thirty two’s. They don’t represent a greater safety for our communities. That’s why we see the need to push for a ban on oil transport until it can be safe. We know it’s not safe now and it’s a ticking time bomb and we need to act now.”

    The advocates noted that the evacuation zone from an oil train derailment in Plattsburgh includes City Hall, the downtown business area, the Country Government Center and numerous schools.

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      Albany NY: Rally on Lac Megantic disaster anniversary

      Repost from the Albany Times Union

      Rally on Lac Megantic disaster anniversary in Albany

      By Eric Anderson, July 6, 2015
      Oil train opponents rally in front of the Governor's Mansion in Albany Monday.
      Oil train opponents rally in front of the Governor’s Mansion in Albany Monday.

      Between 80 and 100 people, many affiliated with People of Albany United for Safe Energy, rallied in front of the Governor’s Mansion on Eagle Street in Albany at noon Monday, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban oil train traffic in the state.

      The rally also marked the second anniversary of the Lac Megantic oil train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people and destroyed the center of the small Quebec town.

      That train’s destination was the Irving Oil Co. refinery in St. John, New Brunswick, where it was to unload its cargo of fracked crude from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota.

      The Port of Albany has become a major transshipment point for Bakken crude to refineries up and down the East Coast, with at least some of that oil also destined for the Irving Oil refinery.

      Several speakers at Monday’s event called for a shift to renewable energy sources from fossil fuels.

      “We have to transition our economy completely off fossil fuels,” said one speaker, Neely Kelley, lead organizer of Mothers Out Front, which seeks to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change.

      “Governor Cuomo, you have a moral imperative to take the climate seriously,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.

      PAUSE has sought to have oil trains, some of which are parked next to the backyards of residents of Ezra Prentice apartments in Albany, prohibited. State officials have said they haven’t the power to regulate railroads, that it’s a federal responsibility.

      But activists have said that state officials could declare the oil trains an “imminent hazard” and ban them.

      Whether Gov. Cuomo heard the protesters’ message Monday wasn’t clear. The governor was in New York City.

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        Albany NY Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

        Repost from The Press Republican, Plattsburgh, NY
        [Editor: the safety improvements showcased here are far from adequate, nevertheless, it’s a good update on conditions in New York.  Sen. Schumer is absolutely right – the DOT-111 tank cars should be taken out of service immediately… and not just in New York.  And Bakken crude should be stabilized before it is transported (not just conditioned) … just as it is in Texas.  – RS]

        Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

        Lohr McKinstry, December 6, 2014

        LEWIS — New state regulations on crude-oil trains should help make them safer, Emergency Services officials from Essex and Clinton counties said recently.

        State agencies have implemented 66 actions designed to strengthen standards, regulations and procedures to make the transport of crude oil by rail and water in New York safer and to improve spill preparedness and response.

        Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a status report outlining the progress made by multiple state agencies after they were directed to evaluate the state’s capacity to prevent and address crude-oil accidents.

        Local leaders have been concerned about the 100-car-plus oil trains moving through Clinton and Essex counties as the crude oil extracted in North Dakota arrives via Canadian Pacific Railway trains.

        The oil is on its way to the Port of Albany, where it is stored for transport to various refineries.

        IMPROVEMENTS

        Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said he sees the new procedures as a safety benefit to the North Country.

        “It’s a step in the right direction,” he told the Press-Republican. “We’re in a better position than we were a year ago.”

        There’s been concern the trains could derail, and the oil burn or explode, as it has in other regions, and Jaquish praised Canadian Pacific for trying to make the tracks and tank cars safer.

        “Upgrading the DOT-111 tank cars, rail replacement and maintenance, and specialized training are all beneficial to safety.

        “Canadian Pacific has been helping us with training, hands-on-experience, that first responders need for these situations.”

        EVACUATION PRACTICE

        The tank cars are not owned by Canadian Pacific but by oil companies and vendors, and as a federal common carrier, the railroad is required to transport them.

        Both the railroad and federal regulators have pushed for upgrades to the DOT-111 single-shell cars or a switch to the stronger DOT-109 or 112 cars.

        “In almost any situation we get, we will be doing evacuations,” Jaquish said. “We’ve been working with Clinton County on planning and implementation.”

        Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day said any improvements to the transport of oil cars are welcome.

        “At the end of the day, what they’ve done is good, no question,” Day told the Press-Republican. “Any regulatory move to make the DOT-111 cars safer is a plus. It’s a long time coming.”

        One problem is that there are thousands of DOT-111 tank cars still in service, he said.

        “There are so many of them (DOT-111 cars) out there on the tracks. They’re not going to stop moving the oil before they fix the cars. The oil is not going to stop coming any time soon.”

        STATE GUIDANCE

        Day said enhanced state regulations on oil shipments will be helpful.

        “If there are changes that are pushed upon them (shippers), it can only make it safer. We’ve seen some of the benefits of the state’s work with regard to planning,” he said.

        “We have guidance now on firefighting potential on dealing with these things. There are so many variables. Multiple cars of this crude oil on fire are a different animal.”

        He said that, thanks to a donation, they now have the foam needed for such fires. The expensive product costs $30,000 for 1,000 gallons of foam but puts out crude-oil-based fires.

        VOLATILE GAS

        The North Dakota Industrial Commission has proposed draft regulations to remove the volatile gases from the oil before it is shipped, and Day said that provision is a good one.

        “One of the things that makes the Bakken crude so volatile are the gases in the oil. The gas works its way out and is stuck in the head space of the car. If they breech, there’s flammable gas; cars that aren’t breeched and heat up, the gas could expand and be a problem.

        “Removing that gas is a possibility before they put in the cars and ship it. If they could do that, it’s a big win.”

        FEDERAL ROLE

        Cuomo called for the federal government to mandate tank-car upgrades or replacement.

        “The federal government plays a vital role in regulating this industry, and Washington must step up in order to expedite the implementation of safer policies and rules for crude-oil transport,” he said in the release.

        The governor said the oil-production industry has resisted stronger tank-car standards and regulations requiring companies to reduce the volatility of crude before shipment.

        A new report from the Brattle Group for the Railroad Supply Institute, a trade group, showed that a proposed federal rule to upgrade rail-tank cars could cost $60 billion.

        According to the report, the high price tag is largely due to the costs associated with potential modifications to tank cars, early retirement of existing tank cars, temporarily using trucks instead of rails for transport and lost service time for tank cars under modification or awaiting modification.

        ‘TIME BOMBS’

        U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has also come out against use of DOT-111 cars.

        “These outmoded DOT-111 tank cars … are ticking time bombs that need to be upgraded ASAP,” the senator said in a news release.

        “That is why for two years, since the tragedy at Lac-Megantic, I have pushed federal regulators to phase out and retrofit these cars.

        “As a result of our efforts, the federal Department of Transportation has put a proposal on the table that could start taking these cars off the tracks within two years, as well as restrict the speeds at which these trains operate.”

        On July 6, 2013, a 74-tank-car train carrying Bakken light crude derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and the tank cars exploded, killing 47 people, destroying 30 buildings and spilling 1.5 million gallons of heavy crude oil.

        That disaster was followed by oil-train-explosion derailments in Alabama, North Dakota, Illinois and New Brunswick, Canada.

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