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Albany Residents Catch DEC's Ear

Lesley Adewunmi

Albany residents, politicians and community advocates recently voiced their concerns about plans to build a crude oil heating facility at the Port of Albany. The State Department of Environmental Conservation appears to have been listening.

Residents of the Ezra Prentice Homes and others in the South End neighborhood  gathered late last week at a public information meeting concerning construction of a new 2,600-square-foot  crude oil heating facility at the port's rail yard.  Global Partners of Massachusetts wants to build a plant  to heat crude as it is pumped from tanker cars into storage tanks.

The Department of Environmental Conservation had been taking public comments thru January 31st, but  the deadline has been moved forward.

First Ward Councilwoman Dorcey Applyrs says the local community worries that the new building may mean increased air pollution adding to dangers already posed by the tankers. She regards the extended DEC deadline as a true testament to what can happen when the community speaks out. "I believe that the press conference in addition to all the letters, emails, and then also the media coverage. I think all of those things combined contributed to the DEC deciding to extend the comment period.”

Applyrs would like to obtain more information regarding how the facility would impact public health.  The new deadline is April 2nd.

The DEC responded to a request for comment by email, claiming "The safety of all New Yorkers is of the highest priority" has scheduled a new public information meeting - quoting now  "meeting at 6 p.m. on February 12, 2014, at the Giffen Memorial Elementary School, 274 South Pearl Street, Albany. This meeting will provide an overview of the permit and its impact."

That permit entails modifying Global's "air permit" to include heated petroleum products such as crude oil and biofuels.

Back in July, longtime rail safety advocate U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in downtown Albany  to express his concern for New Yorkers who live and work in communities along rail freight lines traveled by oil-bearing tankers. " Safety experts in transportation will tell you the DOT 11 car is flawed. They're prone to tears and spills in the event of derailment."

Schumer has called on the Federal Railway Administration and Department of Transportation to require railroads to stop using or retrofit the standard DOT 111 tank car. Tankers regularly "park" on the rails running behind South End residences and playgrounds.

In a related matter, the Chair of the City of Albany Conservative Committee would says the Port needs an oil refinery of its own. Joe Sullivan claims it would expand the City of Albany Property tax base...  "...create good paying jobs, and lower the cost of gasoline and heating oil locally, both of which are above the naional average. The result of all this would be economic expansion and property tax relief in the city of Albany."

While no mention made exactly where such a refinery could be built, Dorcey Applyrs says she would need details and much more information before weighing in on further port expansion. Neighbors are planning to hold get-togethers to stay abreast of developments as they occur…

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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