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The Dangerous ‘Virtual’ Crude Oil Pipeline In Your Backyard


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Produced by Justin Mikulka

You have to see this video.

Albany is emerging as a critical hub of a dangerous crude oil “virtual pipeline” snaking by rail and river vessel from U.S. and Canadian oil fields to refineries on the coasts. This video tells part of the story.

With minimal public awareness and no meaningful public input, Port of Albany oil terminals have quietly expanded capacity to accept crude oil shipments by rail for transfer to river vessel. They are now permitted to handle 2.8 billion gallons per year, primarily from the Bakken region of North Dakota, where production of a particularly volatile crude oil has doubled in three years. This oil is transferred to barge or ship for transportation on the Hudson. Additional oil continues by train down the Hudson Valley, destined for East Coast refineries.

The first oil tanker with this cargo ran aground just six miles out of port—and it was carrying about as much oil as the Exxon Valdez spilled.

It didn’t spill, but what would we have done if it did?

The trains have an even worse track record, and many travel down the Hudson Valley, through Greene, Ulster, Orange and Rockland County communities. This ad-hoc “virtual pipeline” has repeatedly failed—and spectacularly.

More oil was spilled in rail accidents in 2013—more than 1.15 million gallons—than than in the previous four decades. Combined.

  • Forty-seven people died and several blocks were completely leveled by a derailment in a Quebec village in July.
  • Thousands of gallons of oil spilled in fragile Alabama wetlands after a derailment in November.
  • Noxious smoke from a crude oil explosion in North Dakota prompted the evacuation of thousands within five-miles of a derailment in December.

No wonder some railroad workers have called them “bomb trains.”

Maybe you’ve seen them: 100 black tanker cars strung together and moving through the Mohawk and Hudson valleys. Same train cars, same crude oil, same risk.

Wait, it gets worse.

Global Partners, one of the largest petroleum distributors in the Northeast, already has the capacity at its Port of Albany terminal to offload two trains daily, carrying a total of up to 5 million gallons of Bakken crude. It wants to expand its facility’s ability to transport thick, heavy crude oil on the Hudson River by installing up to seven boilers that would heat entire train cars to help tar-like oil flow from train car to river vessel.

Is it tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada? The company has refused to answer that question.

not-on-my-watch-oil-spill-graphic-1image403x450-v3Whatever it is, a spill here of this thick, heavy crude would be devastating.

Don’t let it happen. #NotOnMyWatch. That’s the brand we’re giving this campaign—because we all need to be on watch. Please use #NotOnMyWatch to share content on social media related to this dangerous new threat.

Please save the date of February 12 at 5:30 p.m., for an important public meeting on the Global Partners proposed oil terminal project at Giffen Memorial Elementary School, 274 South Pearl Street, Albany.

crude-oil-donate-graphic-v2We will need overwhelming numbers to demonstrate the public concern about crude oil transport in New York State.

This won’t be the last time we ask you take action on this issue. Please stay on watch.

For additional background about this issue, please visit our Crude Oil Transport page.

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