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Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson Push for Much-Needed Updating of Coast Guard’s Regional Oil Spill Plan

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tina Posterli, 516-526-9371, [email protected]

Current plan doesn’t address rail and marine shipping of Bakken and Tar Sands crude

OSSINING, NY – October 30, 2014 – Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson submitted comments to the U.S. Coast Guard to inform its planned update and revision of the New York/New Jersey Area Contingency Plan (ACP), the region wide spill response plan that spells out how federal, state and local responders and oil shipping companies need to prepare for and respond to an oil spill into local waterways. Upgrading the ACP to improve the spill response and maximize the recovery of spilled oil is critical to protecting the ecological, public health and economic resources of the Hudson River Valley from the threat of a crude oil spill into the Hudson River or New York Harbor.

The Hudson River rail corridor has become a key destination for roughly one-fifth of all oil produced from the Bakken shale deposits in North Dakota, resulting in millions of gallons of explosive Bakken crude being shipped downriver every day. The New York State portion of this virtual pipeline stretches through Western and Northern New York to Albany, and down the Hudson – threatening the Hudson River and many of its tributaries. Major oil storage and trans-shipping terminals in Albany owned by Global Companies and Buckeye Partners currently bring Bakken crude oil in by rail, and ship it downriver on barges and tankers, and the Global facility has applied for permission to store and transfer heavy tar sands crude at its Albany terminal. Buckeye ships 7 million gallons of Bakken crude downriver on the tanker Afrodite weekly, and is planning to bring tar sands through New York by rail to its refineries in New Jersey. Other oil shippers send 100-car, three million gallon “bomb trains” of explosive Bakken crude down the rail line on the West shore of the Hudson River two to three times a day, destined for refineries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“This crude oil boom has created an imminent risk of catastrophic damage to the Hudson River and local communities if a spill occurs in these waters,” said Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director at Riverkeeper. “While we fight to make sure a rail or barge accident doesn’t happen, it is critical that the Coast Guard strengthens this plan to ensure that the manpower and materials are there to respond, recover spilled oil and protect the endangered species, sensitive river habitats, drinking water intakes and other critical resources currently in danger.”

“It is imperative that the Area Contingency Plan is updated to take into account the new threats the Hudson Valley faces from the transport of explosive Bakken and heavy tar sands crude oil,” said Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson. “An oil spill or explosion on the Hudson River would devastate our environment, economy and communities. The Coast Guard must ensure that spill response is as effective and rapid as possible to mitigate this risk to our region.”

The characteristics of the Hudson – from heavy tidal exchange to shifting shoals and narrow navigation channels – make any spill response, particularly one involving heavy crude oil, extremely challenging. Barges on the Hudson transport nearly 12 million gallons a day downriver, over 15 times the volume that spilled into the Kalamazoo River where, more than three years after an oil spill of heavy crude oil, the river’s sediment remains contaminated and an estimated 20 percent of the 877,000 gallons of spilled oil remains unrecovered.
The current ACP was completed prior to the onset of the current North American oil boom that is driving the enormous increase in Bakken oil shipping through New York, as well as the pending introduction of heavy crude and dilbit, including tar sands crude, through the region. As a result, the current ACP requires significant revision and updating in order to prepare for these new risks and spill scenarios. Key comments and recommendations from the groups include:

  • The ACP must be updated to increase preparedness and response capabilities for a spill of explosive Bakken crude oil or heavy sinking oils from a rail accident.
  • The updated ACP should include planning requirements to facilitate the pre-positioning of response equipment, e.g. hard boom and sorbent materials, in key locations throughout the Estuary, but particularly in the Mid and Upper Hudson River area, to better protect Sensitive Areas and critical infrastructure such as public drinking water intakes and power plant cooling water intakes.
  • Annual spill exercises as well as unscheduled exercises should be updated to include spill scenarios from vessels underway on the Mid and Upper Hudson River; rail accidents on the CSX line that result into discharges into the Hudson River or its tributaries, and the use of simulants in order to increase the effectiveness of spill response.

Since 2013, Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson have been working on many fronts to put a stop to the transport of up to 6.3 billion gallons of crude oil per year on an accident-prone “virtual pipeline” made up of trains, barges and ships. Read more about the campaign to put an end to the gravest threat to the Hudson River in a generation:
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