News > News > Preserve River Ecology > Crude Oil Transport > Groups Support Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order Directing State and Federal Agencies to Comprehensively Review Safety of Crude Oil Shipments, but Urge Additional Actions to Protect New York Communities and the Environment Immediately

Groups Support Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order Directing State and Federal Agencies to Comprehensively Review Safety of Crude Oil Shipments, but Urge Additional Actions to Protect New York Communities and the Environment Immediately

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Kate Slusark Kiely, Natural Resources Defense Council, 212 727 4592; kkiely@nrdc.org
Tina Posterli, Riverkeeper, 516 526 9371; tposterli@riverkeeper.org
Jay Burgess, Scenic Hudson, 845 473 4440, Ext. 222; jburgess@scenichudson.org

Call for a moratorium on crude oil shipping by rail and vessel until heightened risks identified by governor’s order are reduced or eliminated

HUDSON VALLEY, NY – February 7, 2014 – Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper, and Scenic Hudson commend Governor Cuomo for issuing a January 28, 2014 Executive Order that identifies the immediate major risks to New York communities and waterways, including the Hudson River, from the significant increase in transport of unrefined petroleum products by rail, ship and barge and that directs five state agencies to report by April 30 on the state’s preparedness to handle a potential crude oil spill or fire resulting from that transport. The environmental groups also strongly support the Cuomo Administration’s call for federal agencies to strengthen regulations and controls over rail and vessel shipments of these hazardous materials. The groups call on Governor Cuomo to take additional steps to safeguard New York’s environment and public safety from the ongoing risk of the devastating impacts of a spill, explosion or fire that communities and the environment in the U.S. and Canada have suffered repeatedly over the past several months.

“We agree with the governor that there are unacceptable risks to New Yorkers presented by the current and expanding transport of crude oil by rail and vessel through hundreds of New York communities and on and along New York’s unique waterways. However, the governor’s executive order will not bring about any actual, immediate changes or protections on the ground to reduce or eliminate those risks because the transport of crude oil will continue at breakneck pace,” said Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper. “While the three month study called for by the governor’s executive order is an important evaluation of the state’s and local communities’ ability to respond to spills of crude oil petroleum products shipped by rail or vessel, the study does not begin to address the underlying source of the threats to public safety that would make emergency response necessary. It isn’t sufficient to ensure the state’s ‘readiness for potential disasters,’ we must prevent the disasters from occurring in the first place.”

Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper, and Scenic Hudson are calling on Governor Cuomo to work with our Congressional delegation to achieve the following additional steps, beyond those required by the Governor’s executive order, in order to begin to address the ongoing threat to public safety and the environment that he has identified:

  • Invoke the power of his office as Governor of the State of New York, in collaboration with our U.S. representatives, to persuade federal authorities with relevant jurisdiction to impose a moratorium on the transport of crude oil by rail through New York cities and towns and by ship on New York waterways until essential safety improvements are in place and spill response and firefighting capabilities are demonstrated to be adequate to cope with “worst case scenario” spills and fires, including derailment and explosion of rail tanker cars carrying flammable Bakken crude, and spills of heavy crude into New York waters.
  • Call on federal agencies to prohibit the use of outdated, dangerous DOT-111 rail cars for the transportation of crude oil in New York. The NTSB and its Canadian counterpart have both issued unprecedented joint warnings about DOT-111 tank cars, citing them for insufficient lining, external shields and venting to protect against punctures or gas build-ups that have been factors in recent fiery derailments involving crude. The chair of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said her agency “was concerned that major loss of life, property damage and environmental consequences can occur” as a result of the 400-per-cent increase in oil shipments by rail since 2005. “Our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality.”
  • Direct New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conduct a full environmental review of Global Companies’ pending application to expand its oil terminal operations in Albany and its application to expand its operations at its facility in New Windsor, New York.
  • Call on DEC to immediately reassess all previous permit modifications granted to Global Companies LLC and Buckeye Partners, L.P. that have allowed these companies to transport millions of gallons of crude oil per day into the Port of Albany without any comprehensive environmental review or public participation.
  • Expand the scope of the state agency review directed by the executive order to include an assessment not only of the state’s but also of local government’s spill prevention and response capabilities and invite county and local elected representatives and emergency response officials from communities at risk from crude oil shipping to join the state agency review at the outset, so that local communities can provide input from the beginning on local risks and preparedness needs.
  • Clarify that the assessment of the state’s and local communities’ capacity to prevent and respond to accidents resulting from the transport of crude oil by rail and vessel include evaluation of spills involving both Bakken-type light crude oil and heavy crude oil and tar sands diluted bitumen, the type of petroleum products that are nearly impossible to remove from water bodies and the type Global Companies LLC would be capable of transporting if its current oil terminal expansion application were granted.
  • Take action to immediately determine the financial capability of companies currently operating in New York storing, handling and transporting petroleum products, including crude oil by rail and vessel, to respond to a worst case scenario spill as defined by the U.S. Coast Guard and to require such operators to provide proof of financial ability to respond to clean up efforts and claims resulting from such a spill in order to continue to lawfully operate in New York (currently required in the states of California and Alaska).

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “Governor Cuomo has demonstrated his commitment to preserving and enhancing the natural resources of the Hudson Valley through his support of the regional economic development councils’ green jobs projects, and he has shown strong leadership in responding to Hurricane Sandy. His executive order lays the groundwork for future strengthening of crude oil spill prevention and response. In view of the grounding of a crude oil tanker on the Hudson and growing numbers of rail accidents and disasters in the U.S and Canada, we urge the governor, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and our Congressional delegation to call on federal authorities with jurisdiction over rail and navigable waterways to impose a moratorium on the transport of crude oil in the Hudson River Valley and beyond while appropriate spill prevention and response measures are put in place. In addition, the existing and proposed Global Companies permits should be subject to a comprehensive environmental review by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation before any further authorizations are issued and transport allowed. The health and safety of our citizens and the integrity of our treasured natural resources will be at grave risk from the transport of crude oil until these actions are taken.”

Sullivan added: “We are not asking for the moratorium on the transportation of home heating oil, industrial materials or any other substances that are properly regulated and transported, only these crude oils that evidence shows are dangerous and not currently subject to appropriate controls while being transported. We look forward to implementation of Governor Cuomo’s executive order as the responsible and appropriate process for determining when safe conditions have been established and when the proposed moratorium on transportation of crude oil through the Hudson Valley can be lifted.”

“A spate of horrific spills and accidents involving the transport of crude oil across North America have demonstrated not only the serious threats it presents to human life, health and the environment, but also the gross inadequacy of current federal and state safeguards against those threats,” said Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We commend Governor Cuomo for taking these important first steps towards addressing the potentially catastrophic risks presented by crude oil storage and shipment in New York State, and we urge him to undertake additional measures to ensure that this activity not be permitted to continue unless the full measure of risks is understood and essential safeguards are in place.”

As much as 1.2 billion gallons of crude oil enter the Port of Albany annually, and that capacity will jump to 2.8 billion gallons annually under oil terminal permits for Global Companies and Buckeye Partners that were approved by DEC in 2012 and 2013 before many of the concerns about these shipments came to light. In addition to the executive order issued by the governor on January 28, 2014, the governor released a letter from the Commissioners of NYS DOT, DEC, DOH and the Division of Homeland Security and Community Services to four federal officials calling on the federal government to tighten controls over rail freight transport of dangerous crude, including rail car safety, which “federal law preempts New York from regulating.” Stating that voluntary efforts on the part of the rail and petroleum industries are insufficient to protect the public, the state commissioners urged the federal agencies to work together to ensure that new safety regulations are adopted expeditiously. By immediately taking the additional steps recommended above, even while the state and federal agencies named in the executive order begin to address the concerns he has raised, Governor Cuomo and our elected federal representatives will more quickly advance efforts to effectively prevent crude oil spills and fires in New York State and will ensure that if and when crude oil transport resumes, New Yorkers will be fully aware of all environmental risks and that response equipment and financial resources will be more than adequate to cope with any spills which do occur.

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About Natural Resources Defense Council
NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

About Riverkeeper
Riverkeeper is a member-supported, watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. www.riverkeeper.org

About Scenic Hudson
Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 50 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved more than 30,000 acres. www.scenichudson.org

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