EPA says oil train operator violated federal Clean Air Act at Albany facility

Repost from Politico New York

EPA says oil train operator violated federal Clean Air Act at Albany facility

By Scott Waldman, 08/17/16 05:29 AM EDT
Railroad oil tankers line up in Albany, N.Y.
Railroad oil tankers line up in Albany, N.Y. | AP Photo/Mike Groll

ALBANY — One of the main companies that transports crude oil through New York has violated federal clean air standards and may face significant fines, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents obtained by POLITICO.

Last month, the EPA issued a notice to Global Companies LLC, saying the company violated the federal Clean Air Act at its oil transportation facility in Albany. According to the documents, Global could face fines of more than $25,000 a day and may have to obtain a new permit for one of its main East Coast shipping routes.

According to the EPA, Global intentionally under-reported air emissions at the facility when it was granted permission to almost quadruple the amount of crude it could transport through Albany.

In 2012, after Global received state permission to increase the amount of crude it transported through Albany from about 500,000 gallons a year to almost 2 billion gallons, the company reported an increase in air emissions of 39.5 tons per year of volatile organic compounds.

But after a months-long investigation, the EPA determined the amount Global reported was far less than what it was actually emitting.

The increase Global claimed is just under the 40-tons-per-year limit that would require a new set of air permits, and likely lead to costly equipment upgrades and additional project delays.

“Global violated the (Clean Air) Act and the federally enforceable New York state implementation plan by increasing the throughput of crude oil at its petroleum storage facility located at 50 Church Street, Albany, New York without complying with the new source review requirements of the New York SIP,” wrote Dore LaPosta, director of the Division of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance at the EPA.

Edward Faneuil, Global’s executive vice president, denied the facility was out of compliance.

“With respect to the Notice of Violation issued by the EPA alleging violations of the Clean Air Act at its Albany facility, Global Partners is in compliance with regulatory and permitting requirements at that facility, including requirements under the CAA,” Faneuil said in a statement Tuesday. “We remain fully committed to operating all of our facilities in a safe, legal and environmentally responsible manner, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against any claims to the contrary.”

Global needs to obtain air permits for the facilities it uses during the crude oil transportation process, which includes equipment to offload oil train tankers.

Albany has become a national hub for crude oil trains, which bring the product from North Dakota and transport it to refineries along the East Coast. Public scrutiny of oil train safety has increased after a series of accidents in recent years, including one in July 2013 that killed dozens of people in Canada. In Albany, the oil trains run on tracks that are located next to a public housing facility and have been stored adjacent to a playground.

On Wednesday, EPA officials will meet with local residents affected by the oil train surge in Albany.

The Cuomo administration has allowed the oil transportation companies to increase the amount of crude they bring through Albany. Since it received permission to increase the amont of oil it transports, Global has also sought to add a crude oil heater that would allow it to bring in thick tar sands. However, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has delayed a decision on that proposal and is now locked in a legal battle with the company.

Local residents, including many who live at the public housing project, have complained that emissions from the Albany facility are causing health problems. In 2014, state regulators determined that the air quality in the area was not harmful.

The EPA investigation echoes claims of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Albany County and a coalition of environmental groups, which contend Global Companies failed to obtain the proper air permits for its crude-handling facility at the Port of Albany. In the lawsuit, the groups claim Global failed to install proper pollution controls when it increased the amount of crude oil handled at the facility.

View the EPA document here: http://politi.co/2bpiO6R