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Environmental Advocates Warn Of Increased Use And Transport Of Tar Sands Oil

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Two environmental groups in the region are helping to distribute a report warning that gasoline processed from tar sands will soon be commonplace, undercutting the region’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution.

The Natural Resources Defense Council — or NRDC’s — issue brief: “What’s in Your Tank? Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States Need to Reject Tar Sands and Support Clean Fuels” claims that by 2020 up to 18 percent of the region’s petroleum-based transportation and heating fuels could be derived from tar sands oil as Gulf Coast refineries increase capacity.
Environmental Advocates of New York Policy Director Katherine Nadeau is particularly worried about transport expansion plans in the Albany area.  “In Albany they’re proposing to build out at the port because in order to get this oil off of the rail cars and get it into pipelines or get it onto boats for further shipment, it’s so thick that you have to heat it up so that it will be liquid enough to move. So they’re actually proposing building some boiler plants to allow this to happen.  Communities down near the port in the south end of Albany are getting really concerned because it’s something that’s caused problems in other parts of the country and other parts of the world. And when something goes wrong, it goes really wrong.”  

Vermont Natural Resources Council Program Director Johanna Miller is concerned that a pipeline that crosses the Northeast portion of Vermont that now carries crude oil may be converted to carry the heavier tar sands oil.  “There’s no safe way to transport this material that doesn’t have serious potential consequences for spills or leaks or problems. So our goal is to keep it out of the Northeast, out of people’s gasoline tanks for their cars, out of our home heating fuels. Because it’s dangerous in the transport of it and it’s really catastrophic for the climate.”

On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada issued recommendations to address safety risks associated with transporting crude oil by rail. They include expanded hazardous route planning, ensuring adequate response capabilities to address worst-case discharges, and proper classification of hazardous materials. New York 21st District Congressman Bill Owens, a Democrat, says rail transport of oil through New York and the district has been a concern and will increase as Canada and the U.S. produce more.  “At the current time they don’t have the force of law by being a formal regulation. They are just recommendations. We do know, however, that the industry is now engaged on this issue and is concerned because we’ve had several major accidents in the United States and Canada. We think this is a very good sign that they’re moving toward putting stricter regulations in force.”  

Again, Katherine Nadeau of Environmental Advocates of New York:.  “Not only do we have the U.S. and Canada working together issuing safety recommendations, the National Transportation Safety Board chairman herself said that the safety regulations we have right now just aren’t good enough. They need to catch up with the new reality of shipping  crude oil by rail.”

Calls to petroleum interests, including the American Petroleum Institute, were not returned in time for this broadcast.

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