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Trains, Oil, Albany: 2nd Community Meeting Held

WAMC Composite Photo by Dave Lucas

Concerned South End neighborhood residents spoke out Wednesday night in Albany about health and safety concerns surrounding Global Companies’ proposal to build seven oil heating facilities at the Port of Albany and increase the amount of oil being shipped through the port.  

The doors opened at 5:30 Wednesday, and a crowd of more than 200 turned out for a meeting that lasted until around 10. Seventy-five people stood up to air their concerns.    Global Companies purchased its 63-acre Albany terminal in 2007 from ExxonMobil.  The company handles a wide variety of petroleum products at its Albany facility, and recently applied to the Department of Environmental Conservation to modify its existing air permit to allow for the installation and operation of boilers and heaters that would be used to heat products received at the terminal.

Katherine Nadeau, Environmental Advocates' Policy Director, says the plan to transport crude through Albany is a bad idea.   "New York is unprepared to regulate shipping of this type of toxic crude oil and one of our concerns of course is the community that lives nearby, that would bear the brunt of any type of environmental disaster should one occur."

First Ward Albany Common Council member Dorcey Applyrs acknowledged Wednesday night's meeting as a first step toward engaging the community.  "There was a lot of concern expressed about the 'comment-only' format which did not allow for true dialog between the community and DEC as well as Global Companies."

Former city councilor Dominick Calsolaro says Global sent a representative who addressed the crowd then disappeared from public view.   "There was no one from Global you could talk to which was a little disappointing, since they basically said someone from Global would be there"

Dave Lucas: "So, nobody showed up?"

"On no, somebody came and spoke. They were allowed to give a presentation of the project but they weren't there to answer questions from the public which is kinda what the meeting was supposed to be for."

DEC has already decided that Global’s application is complete and that the project would not result in significant adverse impacts to the environment.  Applyrs noted the evening took on a somewhat ominous tone.  "Many residents, elected officials, including myself, felt that the level of security that was at this event was unnecessary."

Calsolaro explained when he reached Giffen Elementary, he noticed a row of police vehicles lined up along the school's auditorium side.  "And then you walk inside and there's a big presence of park police and you go in the auditorium and every entrance and exit in the auditorium had at least two park police rangers at the doors. To me it was pretty insulting that they did this. I don't know what DEC was thinking. I've been to other areas of DEC and I've never seen that kind of display of law enforcement officials for a public meeting."

Dave Lucas: "Do you think it was racially motivated?"

"I don't know if it was racially motivated. But I think because it was a minority area, low income, I don't know what did they think people were gonna start rioting or attacking the DEC? I mean the people that came in wheel chairs, the elderly and the children that were there, they were all just gonna get up and have a mad attack at DEC officials? I don't know what they are thinking. In fact I'm planning on sending a letter to Commissioner Martens and Governor Cuomo today."

DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Mark Gerstman characterized the meeting as "very productive" and adds officers were present at Giffen as a matter of public safety.    "This is very similar to all of the other public hearings and public meetings that we have, often times raising controversial issues, and we assign staff based upon standard operating procedures."

Sierra Club Conservation Director Roger Downs warns if ever there is a disaster in Albany, YOU'LL PAY FOR IT.   "More crude oil has spilled in the United States theu rail car derailments some explorers combine last year in each of the catastrophic events, responsible party so shifted liability to subsidiaries. They claim bankruptcy leading the millions and clean up costs, to the devastated communities themselves. I think it's fair to say that if Albany was hit with a rail car, explosion, or a major spill on the Hudson River, the taxpayers will pick up the balance of the bill."

Riverkeeper's Kate Hudson is calling upon Governor Cuomo to address the crude oil issue immediately.   "...other states have passed laws that require operators handling crude oil to have financial assurance in place before they are allowed to operate in New York and we urge the governor and the State Legislature to take those very same steps."

The Cuomo Administration did not return a call for comment in time for broadcast.

RELATED:    Train carrying crude oil derails in western Pa.

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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