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Editor, County Legislators Want Oil Spill Drill Results

WAMC, Allison Dunne

A Hudson Valley newspaper and eight Dutchess County legislators are calling on the DEC to release results of an oil spill drill last year.

In November 2013, local, state and federal officials held an oil spill exercise along the Hudson River in Orange County, prompted by the increase in oil transport along New York’s rail lines and waterways. The fictional drill involved a spill of 50,000 gallons of heating oil from Global Companies’ five-million gallon storage tank in New Windsor into the Hudson River. The scenario also involved the derailment of a CSX train. It was the first such oil spill drill of this magnitude from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in some 10 to 15 years.

A Poughkeepsie Journal environmental reporter has been trying to get the results of the drill, and the paper September 6 published an editorial entitled “Public Has a Right to Response Data.” John Penney is the paper’s community conversation and editorial page editor.

“Well, our concern is that this continues an egregious pattern where the onus always seems to be on the media and the public to get information that should be readily available.”

Repeated requests for comment from a DEC spokesperson were not answered in time for this broadcast.

In this particular case, Penney says the wall is the DEC, but he says there has been a trend of state agencies, and sometimes the companies involved, putting up a blockade to crude oil information in general.

“It’s been a particular problem on this issue, on the crude oil and emergency response issue over the last year or so,” Penney says. “And it’s something that’s deeply troubling to us. Clearly, as we pointed out in the story, the state had to have been able to use some of the information from this drill to complete another report that the governor actually asked for regarding emergency response.”

Democratic Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner says he and seven other legislators, including one Republican, penned a letter to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens also asking for the release of the drill results. Tyner says the Poughkeepsie Journal editorial was the impetus.

“Folks in Rhinebeck and I believe also Hyde Park, Poughkeepsie, there’s lots of different communities up and down the river that get their drinking water from the Hudson River,” says Tyner. “And I think many of us are aware by now there’s been an exponential increase in these oil trains and oil barges going through our communities. And it’s just absolutely ridiculous that it’s almost a year later and the DEC held this oil spill drill and we still don’t know what the results of it were.”

The letter says that the legislators strongly echo the Poughkeepsie Journal editorial asking that the DEC release details from the oil spill drill last November — especially the "after-action review" that summarizes the drill’s outcomes and areas for improvement.

Part of the Poughkeepsie Journal editorial reads, quote, “It was 10 months ago that such a drill was held in New Windsor, but the public still has no idea about the effectiveness of the exercise. The Journal has been trying to get the information since January. But, as Journal environmental reporter John Ferro recently reported, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has repeatedly delayed an open-records request for the report.” End quote.

The editorial says a request was delayed, not denied. Again, Penney.

“And that’s an important point. Justice delayed is justice denied, as they say,” Penney says. “And this is, again, another pattern that we have seen, particularly from the state, where information that, again, shouldn’t be taking this long to be able to release to the public takes months and months, and it’s just unconscionable.”

DEC co-hosted the November 2013 drill with Global Companies.

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