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Albany County Sidetracks Oil Expansion At City Port

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Albany County has responded to mounting concerns voiced by city of Albany residents over oil trains and oil expansion at the Port of Albany.

"It's gratifying that the county of Albany has stepped into the void and is taking action."  Earthjustice staff attorney Chris D'Amato echoes the sentiments of a variety of green groups that have come forward lauding Albany County Executive Dan McCoy's decision to take a stand against plans to build oil heating facilities at the port that would likely increase the number of oil trains rolling through riverside neighborhoods.

Mollie Matteson, Northeast representative for the Center for Biological Diversity, warns the oil trains and crude oil traffic on the Hudson have put 17 endangered species at risk.   "Last month the center filed a lawsuit against the federal government for its inadequate oil spill response plan for the Hudson River and New York-New Jersey harbor."

Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of NY Peter Iwanowicz calls McCoy’s moratorium to stop Global Partners’ oil heating facility expansion currently under DEC review "bold leadership."     "It sets the standard for local governments statewide. It's abundantly clear that this industry has little regard for the many ways that their operations impact our communities and compromise public health."

Wednesday’s order states that the heating and storage of crude oil at the Port of Albany could create a “condition detrimental to the public health and safety of the residents of Albany County.” County Executive McCoy says he decided it was time for action when citizens' questions about safety and health weren't being answered. So he's tackling the health aspect.

"We're gonna do a risk assessment of the port of Albany and of the boilers they're proposing to build. The tar oil that comes down from Canada is pretty table until you heat it up. That's what happened out in Dakota when it blew up. When they were heating it up. And then you got the light oil from Dakota which is very explosive on the tracks.  The health and safety of our residents come first before any expansion. So even though they have that application in front of DEC if they do approve 'em I have a moratorium until these questions are answered. We're not gonna let them build the boilers. And we also have subpoena power that if they don't give us the records we need to fairly answer our questions we're gonna subpoena them and bring 'em to court."

Riverkeeper's Tina Posterli believes McCoy's order came at the right time.   "Governor Cuomo should heed this important county action and call on DEC to do what's required by New York State environmental law and regulation and immediately direct Global to prepare a full environmental impact statement."

Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs agrees.  "Any action requiring the thorough investigation of health and safety implications of oil operations at Albany's port are critical as well as long overdue."

So far, mum's the word - calls to Global Partners, the DEC and the Cuomo administration have not been returned. McCoy says some of oil trains are so long they stretch all the way through North Albany to Menands. McCoy, a former Albany firefighter,  fears the city lacks the manpower to respond to a disaster.

"The population especially by the port of Albany, 80 per cent are minority and Albany Housing is right there on the track. What about the health and safety of the children and the people living there?"  McCoy says he’s asked Sheriff Craig Apple to examine risk assessment as well.

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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