By Mary Esch
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Opponents of a proposal to build boilers to liquefy heavy crude passing through Albany by rail are drawing attention to the capital's emergence as a major hub for the transport of oil that's widely considered risky from an environmental and safety standpoint.
Over the past two years, the Port of Albany has become a major shipping point for highly explosive crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale region. Hundreds of tanker cars arrive daily on Canadian Pacific (CP) and CSX (CSX) rail lines and stretch for miles along highways and through neighborhoods. The trains pass through cities from Buffalo to Albany along the Thruway, and from the Canadian border south along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.
Crude is stored at the port in tank farms and transferred to barges and trains that travel down the Hudson River to refineries.
"We're very nervous about this crude oil mixture coming to our neighborhood," said Lucille McKnight, an Albany County legislator and port-area resident.
At the Port of Albany, Global Partners, (GLP) a fuel shipper based in Waltham, Mass., got a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation in November 2012 to expand operations from 450 million gallons per year of gasoline, ethanol and oil combined to 1.8 billion gallons of crude oil, according to the department.
The huge expansion in crude oil shipments through Albany drew little opposition until a series of major accidents elsewhere. A July 2013 derailment and explosion in Quebec killed 47 people. That was followed by oil train explosions in Alabama and North Dakota that prompted a federal investigation of Bakken crude's high volatility and calls for tougher standards for rail tankers.