Letter to DEC Commissioner
Published on 2/23/2016 written by Dominick Calsolaro
Basil Seggos, Commissioner
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, NY 12233
February 22, 2016
35 Clare Avenue
Albany, NY 12202
Dear Commissioner Seggos:
In the next week, the Title V air permits for both Global Partners and Buckeye in the Port of Albany will be up for renewal. I am requesting that you, and the Department, treat the applications for renewal as new applications per 6 CRR-NY 621.11 subdivision (h).
I believe that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's original approval of both Global Partners' and Buckeye's crude oil expansion at the Port of Albany was done in violation of the Federal 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.
When Global and Buckeye were permitted to expand the amount of crude oil-by-rail they were allowed to bring into their facilities in Albany, there was no SEQR done by either company. DEC accepted Global's and Buckeye's assertion that there would be "no increase in rail traffic at the Port." It is mind-boggling how DEC could accept this statement 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!
What is even more astonishing is that DEC did not follow either the federal Environmental Protection Agency's, or the State's own Environmental Justice guidelines when issuing permits for the expansion of crude oil-by-rail in Albany's South End. The Ezra Prentice Homes neighborhood is a designated Environmental Justice community. This Albany Housing Authority complex is home to hundreds of low-income and mostly minority residents. And, as a further insult to the residents of Ezra Prentice, when Global submitted its permit modification application to the Title V permit to allow them to install heating facilities for Tar Sands oil (of course, they never stated in their application the facilities were for Tar Sands oil), Global stated that SEQR was not required because the facilities were 800 feet from Ezra Prentice Homes. Thus, their project would not be impacting an EJ community. And, as with the increase in crude oil-by-rail, DEC accepted this as reasonable. (To DEC's credit, they did send Global a letter asking Global to review the EJ aspects of the application, and Global answered that, again, it would not impact on an EJ community. DEC accepted this as 'gospel'.)
In addition to requesting that the Title V permit renewals be treated as new applications, I am also asking you, and the Department, to rescind the original Neg Dec that allowed the crude oil-by-rail increase in the first place. Rail traffic at the Port of Albany has increased significantly following the issuance of the Neg Dec and the increase in crude oil at the Port of Albany. The increase in rail traffic is in direct contrast to the information submitted by Global and Buckeye that there would be "no increase in rail traffic at the Port." One of the conditions stated in 6 CRR-NY 621.11 subdivision (h) that allows for a renewal to be treated as a new application is if "(2) there is newly discovered material information....since the issuance of the existing permit." Obviously, the increase in rail traffic at the Port is a direct result of the increase in the allowable amount of crude oil-by-rail that Global and Buckeye are receiving. Also, the DEC has conducted two minor air quality sampling studies, one in 2014 and one in 2015. Both sampling studies showed the presence of cancer-causing air contaminants (such as benzene) above acceptable levels. This information is new since the issuance of the existing permits.
Furthermore, there were NO hearings or public comment periods held before the original Title V permit applications to increase the amount of crude oil-by-rail was approved by the DEC. This is a violation of the requirements for assessing the environmental impacts of a proposed modification on a permit that affects an EJ community.
Commissioner Seggos, with the pending Title V permit renewal applications before you, the DEC has the opportunity to correct this wrong done to the residents of Ezra Prentice by DEC's original decision to issue a Neg Dec. You stated in your testimony regarding the DEC's 2016-17 Executive Budget Recommendations at a hearing on January 28, 2016 before the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and the Assembly Standing Committee on Ways and Means that, "Environmental justice will be one of my top priorities at DEC as the Governor launches a statewide environmental justice agenda." Well, here is an immediate opportunity for you to put those words into action. Rescind the original Neg Dec for Global's and Buckeye's increase in crude oil-by-rail and require a full SEQR as it relates to an EJ Community. And, rescind DEC's Neg Dec allowing Global to construct multiple heating facilities for Tar Sands oil. The health and safety of the residents of Albany's South End depends on this.
One last thing, I have also included my email letter of May 9, 2015 to Judith Enck, Regional Administrator of Region 2, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, regarding applying the EPA's finding that the approval granted by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) of the Bakersfield Crude Terminal's expansion in California was invalid. 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!
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
cc: Hon. Andrew Cuomo, Governor, NYS
Judith Enck, Regional Administrator of Region 2, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Hon. Neil Breslin, NYS Senate
Hon. John McDonald, NYS Assembly
Hon. Patricia Fahy, NYS Assembly
Hon. Phil Steck, NYS Assembly
Hon. Kathy Sheehan, Mayor, City of Albany
Hon. Daniel McCoy, County Executive, County of Albany
Hon. Dr. Dorcey Applyrs, Common Council Member - First Ward, Albany
Hon. Vivian Kornegay, Common Council Member - Second Ward, Albany