Oil Transport's A Disaster Waiting to Happen: Stop Tar Sands Boiler From Being Built in Albany
Recent news reports said that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) had made a stunning reversal by rescinding its previous approval of a permit to Global Partners to build a boiler to heat heavy tar sands at their oil processing facility at the Port of Albany. Addressing this issue was a significant step for the NYSDEC and we thank them for doing the right thing and getting this process started. But the devil is in the details. Actually, the NYSDEC has only rescinded their declaration that the tar sands boiler would not pose a significant environmental risk. But the next step is for the NYSDEC to require that a full environmental impact statement be prepared.
Global plans to build the boiler right next to the Ezra Prentice Homes, a 179 unit low-income housing development — an environmental justice community, requiring special oversight. These low-income residents would be the most affected by drastic increases of noise and toxin levels, harmful odors and the vulnerability to potentially deadly accidents.
Getting the NYSDEC to rescind their declaration that the site would not pose significant environmental problems was a big achievement for which we have to thank The Ezra Tenants Association, the People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE), and Earthjustice who were the lead groups in our multi-organization campaign. But we can't stop here. Please write to the NYSDEC today to tell them that they must declare that the site needs a full environmental impact statement.
Tar sands oil extraction and production is the dirtiest of all dirty fossil fuels. It emits three times more carbon dioxide than the extraction and production of conventional oil and the extraction process results in the destruction of pristine areas within the Canadian Boreal forest, one of the few large, intact ecosystems left on the planet.
But tar sands are only one of the threats that we face in New York from the transport of crude oil. An average of two to four trains carrying up to 3 million gallons of highly volatile fracked crude oil each from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota are traveling through our communities every day. The oil is especially flammable because it contains chemicals such as butane and propane.
There have been more than a dozen oil train explosions in the United States and Canada in the past 21 months. So far the United States has been spared from the most horrific accidents because derailments and explosions of crude oil trains have occurred in sparsely populated areas. However, now that the oil is traveling through our more populated communities such as Syracuse, Albany and Kingston, it could only be a matter of time before we experience a catastrophe of the magnitude of the disaster that struck Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July 2013 when a train carrying crude oil derailed, killed 47 people and leveled much of the town.
Plans are also being made to build the Pilgrim Pipelines to transfer oil from Albany down the west side of the Hudson to the refineries in New Jersey. While pipelines are considered by some to be a little safer than oil traveling on rails, these pipelines are planned to increase the amount of oil transport, not replace oil transport by rail and barge.
Getting the NYSDEC to rescind their declaration that the tar sands boiler would not pose an environmental risk is a tremendous success in the fight to stop the proliferation of fossil fuels, but it is only one battle in the overall struggle.