ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The expansion of crude oil processing at the Hudson River Port of Albany, which has become a major hub for rail shipments of volatile North Dakota crude to coastal refineries in the last two years, will be halted by a moratorium issued Wednesday by Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.
The order requires a health impact study by the county before Waltham, Mass.-based Global Partners is allowed to add facilities to heat rail cars to liquefy thick crude like that mined in western Canada's tar sands. That plan, along with Global's major increase in rail shipments through the city, has drawn intense criticism from port-area residents, environmental groups and local politicians.
"Big Oil is accustomed to getting its way, and today's action could be the first of its kind in the country which signals to the industry they cannot ride roughshod over our communities without consequence," Environmental Advocates Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz said.
Scrutiny of crude oil shipment by rail has escalated in the aftermath of several major derailment disasters, including one that destroyed much of a town and killed 47 people in eastern Canada last year. Since the state Department of Environmental Conservation approved a permit in November 2012, Global has doubled the throughput of North Dakota Bakken Shale crude oil at its Albany terminal, bringing hundreds of rail tank cars daily through the heart of the city.
A coalition of environmental groups, Albany residents and city officials has asked DEC to require a full environmental impact study of Global's application to install seven boilers to heat rail cars to liquefy thick crude so it flows better. The coalition also wants DEC to withdraw Global's 2012 permit and require an extensive environmental impact study.