Letter to Judith Enck
Published on 2/23/2016 written by Dominick Calsolaro
Regional Administrator of Region 2
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
May 9, 2015
Dear Ms. Enck:
I believe that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (NYS DEC) approval of both Global Partners' and Buckeye's crude oil expansion at the Port of Albany was done in violation of the Clean Air Act and our State's own procedures for a SEQR and a full environmental impact study relative to an Environmental Justice (EJ) community, namely, Albany's South End - specifically - the Ezra Prentice Homes.
I would like you, in your position as the Region 2 Administrator, as well as the EPA itself, to review the DEC's negative declaration and approval of the expansion of the amount of crude oil allowed to be transported through Albany's South End - an expansion that allows up to 2.8 billion gallons of crude oil-by-rail to come into Albany. Please note, in Global's and Buckeye's request to expand the amount of crude oil-by-rail they can accept in their respective facilities, they stated to the NYS DEC, and the NYS DEC accepted, that there would be, "no increase in rail traffic at the Port." It is mind-boggling how NYS DEC could not figure out that by allowing an increase in crude oil-by-rail transport from about 800 million gallons a year, to 2.8 BILLION gallons a year, there would be NO increase in rail traffic at the Port. If you can figure that one out, please let me know!
I feel that the approval by the DEC is similar to the approval granted by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) of the Bakersfield Crude Terminal's expansion in California. The EPA ruled that the approval of the permit for the expansion of that terminal was invalid, because the SJVAPCD did not conduct a rigorous environmental review during the permitting process. The EPA found that public notice and environmental review requirements of the Clean Air Act were not followed during the permitting process. This is the exact same thing that did not happen here in Albany, New York!
The Port of Albany, Global and Buckeye are major sources of air pollution in Albany. These facilities are located directly adjacent to Ezra Prentice Homes, an Albany Housing Authority residential property whose tenants are mostly people of color and with low incomes. This community has been designated an Environmental Justice community and should have been treated as such during the NYS DEC permitting process. This did not happen - no public hearings were held; no rigorous environmental review was undertaken, no public notice was given to the residents of Ezra Prentice and the surrounding neighborhood that crude oil-by-rail was going to expand five-fold in their backyard. The only notice of the requested expansion of the amount of this most volatile Bakken crude oil allowed to be shipped through the Port of Albany that I am aware of was a letter from the NYS DEC to then Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings informing him of the requested expansion. Furthermore, Albany's South End has an above average rate of children and adults suffering from asthma and other respiratory-related illnesses as compared to Albany County as a whole. This fact, alone, should have triggered a Clean Air Act review by the NYS DEC before the NYS DEC issued a negative declaration and approved the permit modification allowing the crude oil-by-rail expansion in Albany. But, NO, NYS DEC issued a negative declaration on the increase in crude oil-by-rail into the Port of Albany, without a public notice nor a rigorous environmental review.
Following the NYS DEC's approval of the amount of crude oil allowed to be transported through the Port of Albany, Global requested another modification to their Title V air permit to allow for the building and use of a "heating" facility. The heating facility is to be used to heat "petroleum products" to make it easier to off-load the tar sands crude from rail cars, and load that same oil onto barges for shipment down the mighty Hudson River to refineries. While the NYS DEC has yet to make its decision on this application, it was not until public pressure from the residents of Ezra Prentice and the greater South End community of Albany, and public pressure from the Albany Common Council, our State Senator and State Assembly members, Mayor Sheehan and County Executive McCoy before the NYS DEC even agreed to hold a community meeting on the proposed Title V air permit modification. In the application, Global states that federal Clean Air Act reviews are not necessary because Global views each of its heating boilers as separate entities, thus none of them meet the threshold to trigger an EPA review. But, when taken in toto, the boilers would meet that threshold. This proposal to consider each boiler as its own entity is a way for Global to bypass EPA review. I believe the heating facility should be looked at in toto and not in the piece meal way Global has suggested to the NYS DEC.
I bring up the "heating" facility modification request because it shows the obvious pattern NYS DEC is following to bypass the requirements of the Clean Air Act and our State's own laws and regulations before issuing a negative declaration and allowing the increase in crude oil-by-rail in Albany. To further show you how the NYS DEC has abdicated its authority relative to crude oil shipments into and out of the Port of Albany, all you have to do is look at Global's application for a modification to their Title 5 air permit for the proposed "heating" facility. In the 1,000 plus page application, Global states that the area is NOT an Environmental Justice community. The NYS DEC then writes back to Global and asks Global to again review the EJ community aspect of the proposal. Global answers the NYS DEC letter, by, again, stating the area is NOT an EJ community - an area of low income, mostly people of color with not only the Port of Albany as a neighbor, and the rail lines, but Interstate 787 overhead, and both a huge scrap metal recycling center and a paper, plastic, glass recycling business right next door to the Ezra Prentice Housing complex. NYS DEC accepted Glogal's opinion that the area is not an EJ community without doing any investigation on its own. Therefore, NYS DEC abdicated its responsibility and let private corporations make that decision for the Department.
Please review NYS DEC's original negative declaration of Global's and Buckeye's request to modify their Title V air permits so as to allow a huge increase in crude oil-by-rail in the Port of Albany without full environmental review, a Clean Air Act review and an EJ community environmental study. The precedent set by EPA in its ruling to invalidate the permit granted to the Bakersfield Oil Train Terminal by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District regarding that facility's increase in crude oil-by-rail needs to be implemented in Albany, New York.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. I look forward to hearing from you on this most important environmental health and safety issue in my community.
35 Clare Avenue
Albany, NY 12202