Community leaders called it a victory after the Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that Global Companies will undergo an entirely new application process for its Albany crude oil terminal.
The company, which transports and processes crude oil, had filed an application with the DEC to renew its air emissions permit and sought to add additional equipment to its rail site in Albany’s South End. However, the DEC announced Friday that the company would need to go through the entire application process — not just the renewal process — after it determined there were material changes to environmental conditions in the area.
“Global Companies must restart its environmental review process, given the significant new information about the benzene levels in Albany’s South End community and the hazards of crude oil transport,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in a press release.
The restarted environmental review process will include a public comment period, and possibly a public hearing, the DEC said.
Several local leaders gathered at the Albany County office building on Monday morning to celebrate the decision. Dan McCoy, Albany County executive, said he felt vindicated by the ruling. For the past few years, community leaders had voiced concerns about how the company’s work was affecting residents at the nearby Ezra Prentice public housing project.
Global Partners, which owns Global Companies, operates a rail terminal at 50 Church St., where it processes petroleum and other oil. The facility handles crude that is transported from the U.S. and Canada to its Albany location.
In its submitted application, the company had amended its permit so it could add seven boilers to heat crude oil.
The DEC ruled that Global will need to conduct new testing to accurately determine emissions from the facility. In its new application, the company will need to address a series of new environmental concerns raised by the DEC in its letter.
Among the changes in environmental conditions it must address are odor issues potentially caused by the facility, potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions and incidents involving spills and fires attributable to the transport and processing of Bakken crude, which is the type of oil handled at the Albany facility.
In June, a train carrying Bakken crude derailed and caught fire on the Columbia River in Oregon.
In addition, the DEC observed benzene levels on the South End that are higher than those noted in similar locations in Buffalo and Rochester. Benzene is a natural part of crude oil, and is carcinogenic, specifically causing leukemia, according to the American Cancer Society.
Global will also be required to develop an enhanced outreach plan that fully explores the impacts of its existing and proposed operations on the community.
McCoy said there’s no clear timeframe on how long the new application process will take. However, he said he expects Global to fight the DEC’s ruling.
Representatives from Global Companies did not respond to requests on Monday for comment on the DEC’s decision.
Environmental activists at Monday’s press conference focused on the theme of environmental justice. For years, they said, those living at Ezra Prentice have had to deal with noise pollution, air pollution and the sight of oil tankers rolling through their backyard.
Aaron Mair, the national president of the Sierra Club, suggested Global should assist in relocating residents at Ezra Prentice to an area with higher environmental quality.
“Make it right, and make these residents whole,” he said.
Buckeye Partners, another oil pipeline company with an Albany rail terminal, will be informed that its permit renewal application will also be treated as a new application, the DEC said.
Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.