– OPED: Counties Should Follow McCoy’s Oil Trains Lead

April 17, 2014

This editorial ran in the March 19, 2014 edition of the Troy Record.

OPED: Counties Should Follow McCoy’s Oil Trains Lead

Big Oil is accustomed to getting their way. Their operations revolve around one objective: Getting product to market as quickly and profitably as possible. But Albany County has taken bold action to protect public health against industry greed. Other counties should follow suit.

Executive Dan McCoy’s moratorium on the development of a Global Partners crude oil heating facility at the Port of Albany could be the first of its kind nationwide. That’s important because the nation is watching what’s going on here in Albany — media outlets from Oregon to Kansas and Maine are following the debate in our backyard.

The county executive has clearly identified where he has power within this process. Now, instead of the decision-making being about what’s best for Big Oil, it will ensure that public health and safety is paramount.

This kind of leadership needs to happen in municipalities all along the rail routes and Hudson River, as well as within Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.

The oil industry is working overtime to make Albany part of the oil patch — it’s very own “Houston on the Hudson.” Industry recognized their secretive and underhanded strategy would enable them to lay the groundwork to turn New York into a global transport channel for some of the world’s dirtiest, most dangerous and most toxic crude before the public or regulators caught on.

As a result, in seeking an oil boiling site to facilitate the shipment of heavy crude down the Hudson River, Global Partners circumvented public engagement, refused to answer even basic questions about their agenda, and aggressively sought to dismiss legitimate health and safety concerns. Most observers — including state Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens — have been startled by the alarming increase in rail traffic. Meanwhile, their partners within the industry, who have been involved in four derailments statewide since December, are working to open our doors to highly controversial Canadian Tar Sands. New Yorkers have no reason to trust the oil industry.

This issue begs for Gov. Cuomo’s leadership. His administration can single-handedly stop the proposed Port of Albany boiler and significantly step up health and environmental protections, as well as overseeing New York’s rails which currently have just five Department of Transportation inspectors statewide.

In the meantime, county Executive McCoy has said his moratorium won’t be lifted unless and until the review by his county Health Commissioner Dr. James Crucetti and Sheriff Craig Apple is complete, and he has the full faith and confidence public health and safety is protected. Residents statewide, along thousands of miles of rail and shipping routes carrying this crude, deserve this same leadership and peace of mind.

Peter Iwanowicz is the executive director of Environmental Advocates NY.