Port of Albany Tar Sands Boiler
One year ago, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) rescinded a declaration that Global Companies’ plan to build a tar sands boiler at the Port of Albany would not pose a significant environmental risk. This decision was a significant step in the right direction for the NYSDEC, and we thank them for making this responsible choice. Since that time however, the NYSDEC has failed to take the next step and denied the permit application to construct the tar sands boiler.
Global plans to build boilers at the Port of Albany that would enable the company to heat tar sands oil (also known as diluted bitumen) from Canada so that it can be loaded into tankers on the Hudson River for export out of the United States. This is an extremely bad idea for a number of reasons. Tar sands oil extraction and production process is the most environmentally destructive form of extreme energy extraction, emitting three times more carbon dioxide than the extraction and production of conventional oil. Tar sands oil production is currently destroying one of the few large, intact ecosystems left on the planet: the Canadian Boreal forest. The transport of tar sands oil by train and tanker also poses a threat from potential spills. Because tar sands oil is extremely thick and heavy, it sinks in water, making it very difficult to clean up if the oil is leaked into the waterbodies; it’s also nearly impossible to clean up after it soaks into soil. Transporting tar sands oil from the Port of Albany is clearly a serious threat to Lake Champlain, the Hudson River, and communities all along it path.
In addition to the greater environmental risks posed by this dirty and dangerous tar sands boiler project, this project would have serious environmental justice impacts. Global is proposing to build the boiler right next to the Ezra Prentice Homes, a 179 unit low-income housing development. This community is already dangerously close to a rail yard with rows and rows of fracked oil tank cars from North Dakota. The operation of a tar sands boiler next door would expose community residents to drastic increases of noise and toxin levels, harmful odors, and the potential for deadly accidents.
The NYSDEC has failed to fulfill the promises made in its Environmental Justice Policy by ignoring the potential impacts on project will have on the Ezra Prentice Homes.
The Port of Albany has long been considered a key location by the oil and gas industry. Located at the northern end of the Hudson River and with access to extensive interstate highways and cross-continental railroad networks, the Port of Albany is an ideal distribution center that provides access to major U.S. and Canadian industrial markets. Canadian Pacific railroad has predicted a huge increase in their revenues from transporting tar sands oil from Alberta to the Eastern seaboard. This prediction is bolstered by the European Union’s decision not to assign carbon-intensity penalties on tar sands oil, which will make export to Europe more lucrative. These developments have increased the industry’s focus on Albany—the only ice-free port on the Eastern seaboard accessible by Canadian Pacific railroad.
Global, a customer of Canadian Pacific, already operates an oil terminal at the Port of Albany. In June 2013, Global applied to the NYSDEC for a federally require air pollution permit for the tar sands heating facility. As environmental and public health concerns from the public came pouring in, the NYSDEC extended deadlines for public comment seven times. After the NYSDEC failed to take further action on Global’s tar sands heating project, Global sued the NYSDEC in December, 2015. In April of this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the NYSDEC had to free the matter “from legal limbo” and make a decision within sixty days, resulting in a deadline of June 13th. Now the NYSDEC has further delayed the long-awaited decision by appealing that decision and pushing off the June 13 deadline.
Catskill Mountainkeeper has been involved in this fight from the beginning. Before the NYSDEC rescinded their previous declaration that the tar sands boiler would pose no significant environmental impact, we stood ready to launch a legal challenge to the issuance of a permit to construct and operate the boiler. We funded a health study on the effects that tar-sands oil development would have around the Port of Albany in order to protect environmental justice communities the NYSDEC has failed to address and protect. Today, Catskill Mountainkeeper continues to shine a spotlight on this dangerous project by organizing groups and individuals into a coalition capable of coordinated action to protect our communities.
Mountainkeeper wants Governor Cuomo to deny Global’s proposed tar sands boiler. Any assertion that bringing Tar sands through New York has no significant environmental impact is ridiculous. New Yorkers should not have to bear the cost of diluted bitumen transport through our rivers and towns so that Global can export it to European markets. Wes Gillingham, Program Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper stated that “New York cannot become the hub through which tar sands and other fossil fuels invade the United States. We will not allow Global to profit from the burden and dangers they place on New York State communities. This would go against all the positive change New Yorkers are making to address Climate Change.”