Oil pipeline review to be co-led by NY environmental agency

By Mary Esch, Associated Press

Oversight of a new oil pipeline between the Port of Albany and New Jersey refineries will be led jointly by New York's Department of Environmental Conservation and Thruway Authority.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Oversight of a new oil pipeline between the Port of Albany and New Jersey refineries will be led jointly by New York's Department of Environmental Conservation and Thruway Authority, the agencies announced Monday.

The announcement followed weeks of letters and resolutions from local officials and environmental groups opposing the Thruway Authority's request for sole lead agency status. In a Dec. 16 letter to DEC, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Sierra Club and Environmental Advocates of New York said DEC "is in the best position to conduct the necessary and thoroughgoing environmental review that this project demands."

Four counties, three cities and 21 towns and villages in the project's path also objected to the Thruway Authority's request for lead status in the review.

Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings LLC, based in Canton, Connecticut, is developing a 178-mile project with two parallel underground pipelines between supply and distribution terminals in Albany and Linden, New Jersey. Crude oil will be delivered south to refineries, and gasoline and home heating oil will be shipped north to consumers.

The project will occupy 116 miles of Thruway right of way through the Hudson Valley.

Scenic Hudson objected to the decision to give the Thruway Authority joint lead agency status with DEC, saying that could undermine the thoroughness of the environmental and public health impact review. Environmental groups said the Thruway Authority stands to benefit from fees it would collect from the pipeline, creating a conflict of interest in the environmental review.

In its letter Monday to the Thruway Authority, DEC noted that a preliminary review of the project application indicates the potential for "significant adverse environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of the pipeline, including, but not limited to, impacts to hundreds of acres of forest, regulated water bodies and wetlands."

Environmental Advocates of New York said DEC will have to decide whether a new oil pipeline is justified in light of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's commitment to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuels by 80 percent by 2050.

The pipeline company says transporting oil by underground pipeline is safer than the Hudson River barge and rail transport currently used, though the company doesn't propose to eliminate those transportation methods.

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