ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — State regulators are seeking more information from a Massachusetts company that plans to expand its Hudson River facilities routing rail shipments of crude oil from North Dakota and western Canada to coastal refineries.
The Department of Environmental Conservation sent letters to Global Partners, based in Waltham, Mass., on Monday, requesting more information about emergency response plans, community impact, and other aspects of a rail terminal planned in New Windsor, just north of West Point.
The agency also said it's extending the deadline for public comments on Global's Albany expansion plans from April 2 to June 2. It said the action was part of DEC's review of whether Global has taken measures to minimize damage to the environment in case of an accident involving thick, heavy crude.
Global said in a statement that it will provide the information requested. "Global has consistently worked cooperatively with regulators and we will continue to do so," it said.
Global Partners bought a Port of Albany oil tank farm from Exxon-Mobil in 2007. The company was handling primarily oil, gasoline, ethanol and other fuels at first, but it got a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation in November 2012 to expand operations from 450 million gallons per year of combined fuels to 1.8 billion gallons of crude oil.
The expansion, which started bringing mile-long trains of tanker cars through the heart of Albany daily, drew little notice until a series of derailment disasters in other states and Canada last year put the spotlight on rail shipments of the highly volatile crude from North Dakota's Bakken region.
Environmental groups and port-area residents protested that DEC had allowed Global to vastly expand throughput of crude oil without soliciting public comment. DEC agreed after a meeting with residents in February to launch a comprehensive review of crude oil shipping operations at the port to determine if a previous permit should be revoked and a full-blown environmental impact study required.
Global has two projects awaiting DEC approval: a facility at the Port of Albany to heat rail cars to liquefy thick, tar-like crude, and a rail-to-ship loading facility further down the Hudson in New Windsor, 55 miles north of New York City.
The DEC said in its letter that documents submitted by the company didn't contain sufficient detail about the New Windsor project. The agency requested specific information and directed Global to develop a public participation plan for the nearby city of Newburgh.
For the Albany heating facilities, environmental groups have raised concerns that the company plans to handle viscous tar sands crude from western Canada, which is difficult to clean up if spilled in a ship or barge accident because it sinks to the bottom of a river. Global has said it will handle that type of crude but refuses to disclose where it comes from.
DEC's letter directs Global to answer 29 questions, including providing information about the potential impacts of heavy crude oil spills into the Hudson River, financial resources to cover a cleanup and liability insurance.
The environmental groups Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson praised DEC for expanding its inquiry into Global's heavy crude oil plans at the Albany port.
"For the first time, DEC is sending a clear signal that tar sands crude shipments are not a foregone conclusion in New York," said Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper.