Written on: May 17, 2016 by ICM
Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, Albany (NY) Times-Union
Albany, NY —City lawmakers voted late Monday night to join more than two-dozen other New York communities in opposing a controversial oil pipeline linking the Port of Albany to northern New Jersey.
The resolution condemning the Pilgrim Pipeline project as an environmental risk and public health hazard carries no legal weight.
But advocates called the vote a warning shot for the project’s financiers that should send the message that the planned 178-mile pipeline faces stiff local resistance that will make it a bad investment.
Monday’s resolution passed 9-0, with six lawmakers voting “present” after saying it was premature to oppose the plan before the environmental review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Thruway Authority is complete.
The pipeline — actually twin lines running next to each other — would link the port, a major crude-oil hub, with shipping terminals in Linden, N.J., which home to the largest oil refinery on the East Coast.
One of the lines would carry crude oil south while the other would carry refined petroleum products north, largely along state-owned right-of-way owned by the Thruway.
On the northern end, the pipeline would be fed by rail cars arriving in Albany carrying hydrofracked oil from North Dakota.
Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, the company behind the project, argues it will provide the region a reliable link to home heating oil supplies and reduce the risk of a spill into the Hudson River by serving as an alternative to current barge traffic.
But opponents counter the pipeline will only fuel the growth of the region’s oil infrastructure and exacerbate air pollution in the South End while amplifying the risks of a deadly or ecologically catastrophic mishap.
“It is time for us to take a stand,” said Pastor McKinley Johnson of the St. John’s Church of God in Christ. “We can’t take a chance that things will be alright.”
Roger Downs, conservation director for the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, said building the pipeline will only ensure that the oil-bearing trains that have sparked local and national protests — including a large one at the port last weekend — will continue to rumble into Albany to keep the oil flowing into the pipeline.
“If we build the Pilgrim Pipeline we are locking the city of Albany into 40 more years of trains,” Downs said.
The push to block the pipeline comes as two other high-profile pipelines passing through or near the Capital Region have either been blocked or shelved in recent weeks.
DEC last month rejected a permit for the Constitution gas pipeline, which would have and passed through Delaware and Schoharie counties.
That same week, Kinder Morgan, the Texas company behind the planned Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would have linked Schoharie County to the Boston area, shelved the proposal citing a lack of potential customers for the natural gas it would carry.
The NED project encountered stiff local opposition.
Environmental advocates coordinating opposition to the Pilgrim Project said they were hopeful that the vote would worry the pipeline’s investors.
That hope is pinned on a state law that they say requires governing bodies of cities and villages along the pipeline route to sign off on any project with a two-thirds favorable vote of the local council.
Monday’s vote, Downs said, “will send a message to the investors in this pipeline that this is not a viable project.”
Paul Nathanson, a Pilgrim spokesman, declined to comment on what future approvals the project might need.
“We have a (environmental review) process that we have to go through, and that’s what we’re focused on right now,” Nathanson said.
The Bethlehem and East Greenbush town boards have already voted to oppose the project.
Courtesy: Albany (NY) Times-Union