New York Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was at the Newburgh waterfront Monday, announcing legislation to prevent the establishment of any new anchorage sites in the Hudson River Valley. But the U.S. Coast Guard will continue the proposed rulemaking process as planned.
The legislation, called the Hudson River Protection Act, is Congressman Maloney’s response to a U.S. Coast Guard proposal currently open for comment. The proposal is for the creation of up to 10 anchorage sites in the Hudson River to park as many as 43 commercial vessels between Yonkers and Kingston. Here’s Maloney.
“It is my belief that the desire to expand these sites is predicated on the belief that we’re going to have large increases of crude moving down the Hudson River. But, the compression in global oil prices — we have oil now at lower than $45 a barrel — has obviated the need for a lot of this infrastructure,” Maloney says. “In plain English, we don’t need it.”
His newly-introduced legislation, which is co-sponsored by Democratic Hudson Valley Congressman Eliot Engel, would prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security and, by extension, the U.S. Coast Guard, from establishing new anchorage sites for vessels carrying hazardous or flammable material within five miles of an existing Superfund site, a nuclear power plant, a site on the national register of historic places, or a critical habitat of an endangered species. Maloney says the Superfund requirement alone covers the entire section of the Hudson River that the Coast Guard proposal is looking at for potential sites. Here’s U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy.
“We have head of the proposed legislation. However, we are continuing with the comment period for the proposed anchorages on the Hudson River until that comment period closes on December 6,” Conroy says. “We view public participation as essential to effective rulemaking, which is what these proposed anchorages are, and will carefully consider all comments and feedback that we receive. We encourage dialogue regarding these proposed anchorages and for our community members as well as our elected officials to submit their comments to the official document before the deadline.”
In early September, during a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing with the U.S. Coast Guard, Maloney raised his concern about the proposed anchorage sites and what he says is the need for ample public input.
“The fact is is that this is a bad idea. This is not something we need. We don’t want it. And we want the process to take into account the intense local opposition to this from all corners of all communities in the Hudson Valley,” Maloney says. “So I just wanted to take the opportunity today to draw your attention to that and ask for your commitment that when the public hearings occur that, one, they will occur in a early and timely way and that they will be local and that they will take into account as many of these local viewpoints as they possibly can.”
Rear Admiral Paul Thomas responded to Maloney during the hearing, saying he is very sensitive to local issues.
“I’ve spoken with the District Commander Admiral Steve Poulin, in fact, just yesterday about this topic. He is committed to full and open dialogue with regard to this regulation. And he’s totally open to all the alternatives that are out there to help manage this risk,” Thomas says. “So we can commit to you that there will be plenty of opportunity for comment not only to the record but also through public meetings.”
Citing a backdrop of environmental concerns facing Newburgh, including PFOS water contamination, City Councilman Torrance Harvey opposes creating new anchorage sites.
“This issue would be even worse and I say that because we don’t want anything to contaminate any of our water sources, particularly the Hudson River,” Harvey says.
Democratic state Assemblyman Frank Skartados, also at the Newburgh waterfront, welcomed Maloney’s legislation.
“I think we all know that this a dirty idea, turning the Hudson River into a parking lot that probably has Pete Seeger turning in his grave,” Skartados says.
Again, Maloney, who represents the 18th District.
“We are going to fight to protect this river. We are going to be good stewards of the Hudson River,” Maloney says. “And whether it’s the PCB cleanup or the other efforts we’re engaged in, we are going to do what’s right for this river, and we can do that working together.”
Again, the public comment period on the Coast Guard proposal is open until December 6.