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Demonstrators at the capitol call for state action against transport of crude oil on New York train tracks. Photo: Karen DeWitt
Demonstrators at the capitol call for state action against transport of crude oil on New York train tracks. Photo: Karen DeWitt

Green groups pressure Cuomo on rail oil trains in NY

National environmental groups are putting the spotlight on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, over the issue of the expanding international oil distribution center, located just blocks from the State Capitol, at the Port of Albany.

They call this Cuomo's "Keystone" moment.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

A small band of demonstrators chanted and held signs to protest a confluence of events that has turned upstate New York into a major center for oil distribution.  

Two major rail road lines, from the booming Bakken oil formation in North Dakota, and oil fields in Canada, converge at the Port of Albany.

On the way, the rail lines also pass through Buffalo and Syracuse, and snake along the New York side of Lake Champlain.

The company Global Partners processes crude oil at the port in Albany to ship it down the Hudson River and on to major oil refineries.

 Environmental Advocate’s Peter Iwanowicz says “Big oil has decided that this is a great place.” 

The long trains of black oil tankers have derailed and in some cases have exploded and burned. One oil train derailment set off the inferno that leveled most of a small town in Quebec last summer, killing 47 people. 

Nationally known environmentalists, including Bill McKibben, and the heads of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, are calling on Gov. Cuomo to direct his environmental agency to conduct a full review of the port’s expansion and the growing use of the state’s ral lines for oil transport.

They compare the burgeoning route to the controversial Keystone pipeline in the Western United States. “It’s Cuomo’s keystone moment,” Iwanowicz said.

 The groups fear that the growing oil distribution center in Albany will also be a conduit for Canada’s controversial tar sands oil, which critics say is dirty and difficult to extract, and will lead to even more greenhouse gases. 

“New York could be aiding and abetting the destruction of the planet,” Iwanowicz said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation initially did not challenge Global Partners’ application to expand of its oil processing plant. The agency is now asking the company for more information, and has extended a public comment period.  A spokeswoman says the DEC will also establish an air monitoring program near the port in the spring..  

Gov. Cuomo has also ordered a multi-agency review of safety procedures and emergency response plans relating to the oil shipments across the state. He’s also asking the federal government to speed-up new regulations for oil shipment by rail, including requiring the oil be shipped in safer tanker cars.

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