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There are numerous threats to the environment in the Hudson Valley and the attention they receive is directly related to the awareness of the people of the existence of the threat and also the degree to which the residents in the threatened area have been socioeconomically and politically silenced.
The recent outcry surrounding the crude oil shipping and tanker rail travel through Albany is not misplaced and is long overdue. The permit filed by Global Co LLC for an oil heating facility to be constructed at the Port of Albany promises air and water contamination as well as potential combustion. It is designed to handle Bakken Oil From North Dakota, Tar Sands Oil From Canada and possibly, rumor has it, fracking materials.
All of this is the dying gasp of fossil fuel addiction and we should be practicing tough love, cutting off the supply as much as possible. However, even for those who wish to continue using, there are state and federal mandates about limits to local contamination and public health risk.
Unfortunately, at present, despite the terrific job by Tim Truscott and Dominick Calsolaro to alert the community, and the successful postponement of the NYS DEC public comment period to January 30 2014, the whole project has not even been required to file an Environmental Impact Statement and so there is much work to be done.
Let’s remember that locally, this is about defending the Hudson River, the South End Community of Albany, and preventing disasters up and down the state from fuel accidents. Nationally, and globally, it is also about not allowing the government to destroy Canada, further damage the to the atmosphere or injure the world fresh water supply through fracking in New York State.
With this in mind here are a few key points that our environmental activists have learned over the decades from preventing unwise development in various regions of Albany County:
1) The City Planning Board meeting is important and people should go. Apparently, no date has yet been set for that meeting on this issue. Often, the Planning Board issues the positive or negative declaration regarding the State Environmental Quality Review act. If positive, the project must submit an Environmental Impact Statement and conform to the standards of the Act, while if the declaration is negative, an abbreviated assessment is filled out and the project is presumed to have little to no risk to the environment.
A negative declaration, already issued, is grossly inappropriate in this instance. If we have to sue to get the negative declaration rescinded, it might be worth it.
2) The Public Comment deadline of Jan 30th is important. Please comment extensively and often up to the deadline. We should at this point, NOW, include attorneys in our discussions as they can point at the best points that MUST be included in public comment because they are flagrant violations of law. In other words, everything we can point out about prior barge accidents and oil denser than water that can never be retrieved from the river should be submitted and is very relevant but attorneys like Lou Oliver and Peter Henner can give us some pointers on any other parts of the permit that should be challenged. Air pollution/emissions in particular are ferociously complicated and we need advisers on estimating that threat.
From what I’ve been reading online, the community is doing some pretty fantastic research and I hope you all write it up and send it to the DEC at: email@example.com
3) We hope there will be a NYS DEC oral comment hearing at which point they will also collect any additional written comment, however, as yet, I don’t think we can be sure they will do this.
4) It is wonderful that people are finally starting to take environmental injustice as a serious issue HOWEVER the rules and regs passed by the DEC in the last two years are deficient. In NYC, there were nearly riots at the public hearings as the rules require the oil/gas/electric companies to fill out a form, yet there is absolutely no upper limit to the cumulative emissions nor to the number of polluters that can coexist in a given region. The Environmental Justice provisions do not protect anyone and they have no legal teeth.
So please bring up Environmental Injustice issues but do not expect legal protection from an environmental justice assessment.
5) This kind of fight is always a long haul, as anything worthwhile usually is. It depends on staying on top of dates, places, deadlines and keeping your supporters informed. This is a wonderful initial burst of concern but put your anger on slow burn so that you will be victorious.
The problem of restricting fossil fuel traffic through Albany is a bit more legally complicated than defeating this permit, so let’s start with the permit and throw the full weight of our collective commitment to the precautionary principle at those who would endanger the irreplaceable for short term profits for the very few.