The spotlight is on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo yet again over the issue of the expanding international oil distribution center, just blocks from the State Capitol at the Port of Albany. Demonstrators chanted and held signs protesting a confluence of events that has turned upstate New York into a major center for oil distribution. Environmental activists and groups such as Bill McKibben, Environmental Advocate, the Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund are calling on Cuomo to review the port’s expansion and the threats it could pose to the environment.
The company expanding the port, Global Partners, processes crude oil at the port in Albany to ship it down the Hudson River and on to major oil refineries. Two major railroad lines, from the booming Bakken oil formation in North Dakota and oil fields in Canada, converge at the Port of Albany. On the way, the rail lines also pass through Buffalo and Syracuse, and snake along the New York side of Lake Champlain.
Environmental Advocate’s Peter Iwanowicz says, “Big oil has decided that this is a great place.” In several cases, long trains of black oil tankers have derailed and sometimes exploded and burned. Governor Cuomo has ordered a multi-agency review of safety procedures and emergency response plans relating to the oil shipments across the state. He’s also asking the federal government to speed-up new regulations for oil shipment by rail, including requiring the oil be shipped in safer tanker cars.
Environmentalists have compared the Port of Albany expansion to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and are calling this Cuomo’s “Keystone moment.” The expansion was not initially challenged, by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, but after several environmental groups voiced their concern, they are now asking for more information from Global Partners and allowing the public to chime in on the potential development.