ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state regulators are expected to decide soon on a permit for a facility at the Port of Albany that critics say would make the port a hub for heavy Canadian tar sands crude oil as well as the millions of gallons of North Dakota Bakken crude it's now handling.
Global Partners, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, needs the air quality permit to install seven boilers that would warm rail tanker cars to facilitate offloading of dense crude to Hudson River barges destined for coastal refineries.
The Department of Environmental Conservation accepted the permit application on Nov. 21, 2013. If it doesn't make a decision within 18 months — Thursday — it risks being sued by Global, said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York and a former DEC executive.
The Environmental Protection Agency has 45 days to review the air quality permit after DEC issues it.
Environmental groups oppose the rail transport of tar sands crude, saying tar sands development is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions and the dense crude is almost impossible to clean up if spilled into a water body such as Lake Champlain or the Hudson River, which are along the oil train routes.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has issued a moratorium on expansion of crude handling facilities at the port, but Global Partners has promised a court challenge. Local officials and residents of low-income housing complexes near the port are concerned about the health impacts and potential for a catastrophic accident from crude oil transport operations.
"We are advocating a full environmental review addressing all these issues," Iwanowicz said.
Global Partners and another company, Buckeye Partners, have vastly expanded their Port of Albany operations to handle crude oil shipped by train from North Dakota's Bakken Shale region. As many as 44 trains a week, each loaded with at least a million gallons of Bakken crude, move through upstate New York, according to CSX and Canadian Pacific railroad documents submitted to the state last year.
Global has said the tanker heating facilities wouldn't increase the volume of crude being handled at the terminal, but would give the company the ability to expand the types of crude it handles.
Neither DEC nor Global responded to requests for comment.