News > News > Preserve River Ecology > Crude Oil Transport > In Albany, an ongoing push to hold back oil-heating permit, new environmental threats

In Albany, an ongoing push to hold back oil-heating permit, new environmental threats


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For some, living a few hundred feet from a rail yard can be an extraordinary nuisance; for residents of the Ezra Prentice Homes, it’s a constant reminder of the significant environmental threats being posed daily to the health and safety of their community.

Ezra Prentice Homes, located in South End Albany, NY, is a public housing complex situated in an “environmental justice community,” a designation given to low-income communities of color that have been burdened by environmental pollution. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s policy is to promote environmental justice in such communities as Ezra Prentice Homes, to minimize the environmental burdens often felt by New York’s low-income, minority residents. That’s why, in 2013, when Global Companies LLC, an oil transloading company, applied for a permit to expand operations at its Albany oil terminal, just a few hundred feet from Ezra Homes, Riverkeeper and Ezra Home residents cried foul.

Global’s new Title V Clean Air Act permit would allow the company to heat heavy crude oil, a thick and muddy substance that, if spilled, is expensive, and nearly impossible, to clean up. An incident near the Ezra Homes complex could have serious consequences for those residents whose health and safety are already threatened by the up to 2.8 billion gallons of oil allowed to be transported through their community every year. An incident on the Hudson River alone could affect over 100,000 New York residents in Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Port Ewen, Hyde Park, and Highland, who depend on the Hudson River for their drinking water.


In 2014, Riverkeeper sued the DEC for issuing a negative declaration (“neg dec”) on Global’s air permit application to begin heating heavy crude oil. A neg dec means DEC found that the granting of the oil heating permit would not result in the potential for even one significant environmental impact. Following Riverkeeper’s suit, however, and after receiving over 19,000 public comments on the permit over the course of a year, DEC issued a notice of its intent to rescind the neg dec and notice of its rescission of its prior Notice of Complete Application. Global subsequently sued DEC to force the agency to make a final decision on its permit application. On April 14, 2016, the State Supreme Court sided with Global and ordered DEC to make a final decision on the permit within 60 days.

On May 24, 2016, the Attorney General’s office filed a notice of appeal on behalf of DEC, staying the April 14, 2016 order by the State Supreme Court that directed DEC to take “final action” on Global’s application for an oil heating permit. The stay comes as another interim victory for environmental groups and grassroots organizers who have contended for the past 2 years that DEC cannot legally take final action on the oil-heating permit without first conducting a comprehensive environmental review that will involve the full participation of the environmental justice communities in the city of Albany and within the regional airshed. Riverkeeper continues to emphasize that the environmental review must not only consider potential impacts to Albany communities, but also to impacts up and down the Hudson Valley, as well as to the Hudson itself.

On June 16, Global filed a motion to vacate the automatic stay, a request that was opposed by the Attorney General’s office on June 24, 2016, as well as by Riverkeeper and its co-litigants. We are awaiting a decision from the Court on whether Global’s motion to vacate will be granted or denied. As long as the stay remains in place, DEC is not required to make a final decision on Global’s oil heating permit application by any date certain. Riverkeeper and the other intervening parties are waiting for DEC to perfect its appeal (i.e., file all of the supporting documents necessary for its appeal to be before the appellate court for decision) or for Global to take further action. In the interim, Global still does not have the oil heating permit it sought more than two years ago, with all of the environmental threats such a permit would present to the Albany community right next to Global’s facility, to the Hudson River on which the heavy crude would be transported, and to all of us facing impending climate change.

UPDATE: The judge has denied Global’s motion to vacate the stay. A stay is currently in place.

Photo from Earthjustice, “Watching The Rails: One Community’s Quest For Safety”

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