Via fabled River activist Bob Boyle: Prompted by a vast uptick in rail and barge transportation of fossil fuels along the Hudson River, the 625,000-member Center for Biological Diversity put the Coast Guard and EPA on notice today of its plans to sue if steps are not taken to address the risks posed.
The group warns of potential harm to “millions of people” in the region due to spill plans which have been rendered “inadequate” by the huge increase in fuels running south down the River—as well as major new storage capacity at sites like the Port of Albany, which handled an estimated “one billion gallons of Bakken crude oil alone” in the past year.
“Given the unprecedented increase in rail and barge transport of oil through the planning area, and given the new products and wastes being transported, impacts to species hold far greater risk than was the case just a few years ago,” the Center writes in its memo to the Federal agencies.
Much of that increase comes from tracking and tar sands extraction in the Dakotas and Canada, fuel sources which the Center says pose even bigger risks to the fish, birds, mammals plants and habitats in and around the river than ordinary crude oil due to differing densities and properties which could make cleanup all the more difficult.
The memo arrives in the context of a protracted review of safety measures related to oil transportation which are supposed to be codified in the “New York and New Jersey Area Contingency Plan for multi-agency prevention of and response to oil and hazardous waste spills.”
The Center further notes that “until formal consultation is complete … harm to any listed species resulting from spill response activities could subject government employees or private workers to substantial civil and even criminal penalties” in the event of a disaster.
Governor Andrew Cuomo “recently signed an Executive Order attempting to address acknowledged deficiencies in the [Plan],” the Group points out. The Order requires “state agencies to petition the federal government to upgrade outdated and inadequate oil tanker safety regulations and further requires state agencies to provide a fresh assessment of the dangers of moving oil by rail through the State” in hopes of averting “a ‘catastrophic accident’ that would seriously damage the state’s natural resources.”
The group’s concerns are not limited only to fossil fuels, but also transport and disposal of fracking byproducts such as “toxic wastewater that must be heavily treated before it can be released into the environment.”