If, as it seems, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is backpedaling on a pair of decisions involving controversial oil train shipments at the Port of Albany, that would be good news.
In 2012, DEC passed on the need for strict environmental review of plans by Massachusetts-based Global Companies LLC to double the quantity of so-called Bakken crude it was bringing into the port via rail from the upper Midwest. That was before a trainload of the stuff derailed and exploded in Quebec last July, killing 47 people.
And last November, DEC didn’t think Global’s plan to build an oil-heating operation in Albany that would make it easier to pump the increased crude shipments from the trains to Hudson River tankers and trucks warranted comprehensive environmental review. That was before similarly tragic derailments took place in North Dakota and Alabama late last year and early this year.
It’s been hard not to notice the oil trains — some carrying as many as 100 cars — lined up along I-787 in downtown Albany, waiting to get into the Albany port. A few weeks ago, increased local concern for the situation even captured the attention of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who simultaneously called on several state agencies to review safety procedures and emergency response preparedness in the event of an accident with the highly volatile crude.
Obviously, the governor’s order cast fresh doubt on DEC’s previous opinions that the increased shipments and handling of the unusually volatile oil are environmentally benign. So the agency is reportedly reconsidering: It has already agreed to make Global show that its plan does not violate the environmental justice of poor and minority communities (i.e. people in Albany’s South End) in accordance with one of its own policies; and according to a Times Union report, is reviewing its decisions on the wisdom of increased oil shipments and large-scale crude-heating operation.
Global should at least be required to show, at more than cursory length, that its operations are not going to jeopardize the safety of New York residents, or the quality or their air and water.