New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney stood on the banks of the Hudson River in Orange County Thursday touting the passage of a bill banning oil barges from anchoring on the Hudson River. He was flanked by local and state lawmakers and environmentalists.
The Democratic congressman who represents the 18th District was celebrating House passage of the bipartisan Coast Guard Authorization Act banning the barges on the Hudson.
“What I did is I wrote a permanent ban on new oil barge anchorages, really any anchorages, between Kingston and Yonkers,” Maloney says. “This was the precise area that was in the crosshairs before when we had a proposal for 10 new anchorage barge sites involving 42 new berths. This would have created an archipelago of oil barge storage sites up and down this beautiful part of the Hudson River. That’s what we were all objecting to.”
The objection came in the form of several press conferences up and down the river, with elected officials from both sides of the aisle. It also came via about 94 percent of the more than 10,000 comments during a public comment period for the U.S. Coast Guard proposal. Ultimately, the Coast Guard shelved the proposal in June 2017. Maloney serves as chair of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Three years ago we stood on this site and said we’re going to stop it. I have now written into law, and passed the House of Representative a measure, as part the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill, that would permanently ban new storage sites, new anchorage sites, between Kingston and Yonkers, and provide communities even outside that area with an extended notice period to prevent any proposals they don’t like,” Maloney says. “Next stop is the Senate, where we expect it to be passed and signed into law.”
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson was unable to respond in time for this broadcast. Maloney spoke about the bill at a state park at Plum Point in New Windsor. You could see Cornwall-on-Hudson, where Brendan Coyne is mayor.
“I was here three years ago, and, at that time, I talked about all sorts of pollution that could’ve occurred; it’s light pollution, it’s noise pollution, it’s the smells, the odors,” says Coyne. “So this is very important to my little village — we’re Cornwall-on-Hudson — and we have kayakers, we have boaters and we have a yacht club, we have picnickers, right there, right there where that gazebo is. So I’m thrilled, and I appreciate Sean following through.”
Since the Coast Guard suspended the anchorage proposal, there have been workgroup meetings with a number of stakeholders who assessed safety risks on the Hudson. The Coast Guard issued a report on safety in March 2018, and additional anchorage sites were not among the recommendations. Again, Maloney.
“There is no substitute for writing into law, as I have now done, a permanent ban on oil barge anchorage sites between Kingston and Yonkers. That will supersede any activity the Coast Guard might take at a regulatory level, and that is why it was needed,” says Maloney. “The other efforts were good, and the community involvement was extraordinary at pushing back the first proposal, but it didn’t protect us going forward. This will permanently protect this part of the Hudson River, and that’s what’s so great about it.”
Democratic state Senator Jen Metzger says Maloney’s bill is critical.
“I am thrilled, having been involved for years in the fight against fossil fuel crude oil transportation through this very corridor, and this is really a huge victory,” says Metzger. “And it’s really energizing when you have a victory like this.”
Democratic colleagues state Senator James Skoufis, Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson, Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey and senior staff from Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Scenic Hudson also were among those on hand.
In the fall of 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to safeguard the Hudson River from proposed anchorage sites. The legislation also established minimum conditions under which petroleum-bearing vessels are authorized to navigate on the river.