New York regulators will require an extensive new environmental review of permits originally issued in 2012 that allowed fuel transporters to turn Albany into a major hub for crude oil rail shipments from North Dakota to East Coast refineries.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said Friday the agency will require Waltham, Massachusetts-based Global Partners to restart its environmental review process given significant new information about benzene air emissions in a neighborhood near the Port of Albany as well as the hazards of crude oil transport.
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"DEC will ensure that this process includes a meaningful and thorough opportunity for public engagement," Seggos said.
Environmental groups that have harshly criticized DEC's quiet approval of the company's original application in 2012 without public hearings hailed Friday's action as a victory. The 2012 permit allowed Global to quadruple petroleum shipments at the port from 450 million gallons a year to 2.2 billion gallons. Oil trains bring crude from North Dakota's Bakken Shale region to the port for transport by barge down the Hudson River.
"What DEC has clearly decided is it's going to completely re-examine the previous permit decisions that have allowed Albany to become the major crude oil hub in the Northeast. That's huge," said Kate Hudson of Riverkeeper. "It seems to signal a policy shift in terms of deciding whether this activity has any benefit for New Yorkers."
Friday's action comes a month after the federal Environmental Protection Agency accused the company of violating air pollution standards at the Port of Albany, an allegation Global denied. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
DEC said in the new permit application, Global must examine numerous impacts including air emissions, noise and visual impacts, potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions due to handling of heavy tar sands crude, the potential for spills and fires, impact on Albany's waterfront revitalization plans, and cumulative impacts associated with the Pilgrim Pipeline proposed to carry crude oil from Albany to New Jersey refineries.
DEC said it will also require a new permit application from a smaller fuel handler at the port, Buckeye Partners.