Environmental groups, South End residents and local leaders all welcomed a decision Tuesday by an Global Companies, which operates an oil terminal at the Port of Albany, to abandon its five-year-old plan to install a facility at the Port of Albany that could have handled Canadian tar sands oil.
The decision by Massachusetts-based Global Companies to drop a controversial bid for natural-gas fired boilers marked the end of a legal struggle that began in 2013 when the company first sought a state permit.
Said company spokeswoman Liz Fuller, “We are withdrawing that request and plan to resubmit a renewal application with modifications later this year. The changes to the permit will include a reduction in the amount of crude oil handled through the terminal and will not include a system for the heating of crude oil.”
The decision also means Global is ending a legal challenge against the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which Global had sued in 2015 for not issuing the permit for the boilers.
This spring, DEC prevailed in an appeals court ruling that upheld a DEC decision that Global’s permit application had insufficient information.
On Tuesday, DEC indicated it was “pleased that following our successful litigation, Global has withdrawn (its plan) … DEC will rigorously review any new modification request to ensure it complies with all state rules and regulations and the environment and public health are protected.”
Opponents of the oil terminal had also sued DEC over the agency’s issuance of a 2012 permit that allowed Global to handle up to 1.8 billion gallons a year of oil at the port, up from an earlier limit of 450 million gallons.
Fuller could not indicate how much less oil the company’s renewal application to DEC would call for.
“This is a huge victory,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. ” We are finally beginning to achieve the results we have been fighting for over the course of the last four years.”
He urged DEC to closely scrutinize Global’s permit renewal to allow future oil shipments “including any adverse effect those activities may have on the environment.”
Global’s withdrawal is “a huge victory for the families that live, work, and go to school in Albany’s South End,” said Chris Amato, a lawyer with the environmental law firm Earthjustice. The firm represents the Ezra Prentice Homeowners Association, a city housing project with several hundred residents next to the port where oil tankers were parked, as well as the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity.
“Global’s proposal would have spewed more toxic pollution into the air, endangering the health of South End residents, including hundreds of children who live and attend (Giffen Elementary) school in the shadow of the Global facility. This has been, and continues to be, a fight for environmental justice,” said Amato.
The environmental groups Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper and Environmental Advocates of New York also welcomed Global’s retreat. “While we are glad that Global has dropped plans for dangerous tar sands oil to flow through Albany, they still think of our city as ‘Oilbany,’ said EANY Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz.
Crude oil rail tanker shipments to the port from the Bakken fracking fields of North Dakota had slowed and then stopped entirely after the price of oil started falling several years ago. There have been no rail oil shipments there since 2016.
Global never indicated that it intended to use the heating facility to handle Canadian tar sands oil, which is thicker than regular crude. That requires it to be heated during low temperatures so it can be pumped out of rail transport cars.
Opponents of the plan also warned that transporting Canadian tar sands from Albany could pose a threat to the Hudson River if the oil was shipped on barges. Tar sands oil is heavier than water, and in the event of a spill, would sink to the bottom of the river, making it extremely difficult to clean up.
In June 2013 Global applied to DEC for a federally required air pollution permit for the heating facility. As public concern mounted, particularly among neighbors in the South End, DEC extended deadlines for public comment seven times.
In May 2015, just before a ruling on the permit was legally due, DEC issued a statement that it intended to revoke its earlier ruling that the heating plant project would have no adverse environmental impact.
Global sued, saying the state had to either issue or reject the permit; a Supreme Court ruling ordered DEC to come to a decision on the project within 60 days, but that deadline was held back during the state’s appeal to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, which this spring backed the DEC.
Among the people credited with advocating for South End residents are:
– Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs
– Former Council Member Vivian Kornegay
– Former Council Member Dominick Calsolaro
– Residents of Ezra Prentice Homes
– AVillage, Inc.
– People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE)
Past Albany Times Union coverage:
– Tar sands Albany bound? – September 23, 2014
– Looming tar sands shipping surge in U.S. eyes Albany – December 7, 2016
– State prevails in port oil boiler challenge – October 26, 2017
– Top court declines Albany oil company appeal – February 21, 2018