New York State regulators have just put the brakes on the approval process for a crude oil heating facility in the Port of Albany. Environmental groups charged that the facility would “facilitate the oil industry’s desire to ship Tar Sands crude oil down the Hudson River on its way to the global market.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation today rescinded an earlier finding that the proposed facility would have no significant environmental impact, and would not require a full impact review. The DEC says it has received 19,000 public comments about the facility.

Massachusetts-based Global Partners, LLC had sought a New York State air quality permit in order to install seven boilers that would warm rail tanker cars to “facilitate offloading of dense crude oil to Hudson River barges destined for coastal refineries.”

The Albany Times Union reports that Albany already has become a focal shipping point for another type of crude oil- from the Bakken fields of North Dakota.

“Bakken crude is lighter and more flammable, and floats in water,” the Times Union noted. “Tar sands crude is less volatile, but heavier, and sinks to the bottom in water, which can make spills in water difficult to clean up.”

The DEC has announced they are now requiring a full Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Global Partners facility.

Read the state’s press release

“After a thorough review of Global Companies application and supporting documents for a Title V air permit modification to its facilities at the Port of Albany, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today its intent to rescind the Negative Declaration and Notice of Complete Application for the project. DEC identified significant proposed project changes and new information submitted after the Negative Declaration and the Notice of Complete Application that must be considered as part of a full environmental review of the project.

“Our review of Global’s application has focused on protecting the health of people living around the facility and the environment,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “This community has voiced its concerns and raised some serious issues. Through the environmental review process, DEC will continue to evaluate the project’s impacts.”

Global has 10 calendar days to respond to DEC’s notice.

State regulations (6 NY Codes, Rules & Regulations § 617.7(f)) provide that DEC must rescind a negative declaration when substantive: changes are proposed for the project; substantive: new information is discovered; or substantive: changes in circumstances arise that were not previously considered and the lead agency determines that a significant adverse impact may result.

In reviewing the 19,000 comments submitted during the public comment period significant issues were raised that meet the state regulatory standard to rescind the Negative Declaration for the project.

For example, there is not sufficient information to evaluate how the proposed project would comply with the hydrogen sulfide ambient air quality standard. In addition, Global failed to provide sufficient information to determine the net emissions increase associated with the proposed project under the nonattainment New Source Review (NSR) program. Global has proposed to reconstruct Tank 33 with a floating roof and refit this tank with heating coils to store the heated bitumen.

Global has the burden to demonstrate its compliance with all regulatory standards including the Hydrogen Sulfide standard. The company has not submitted any actual hydrogen sulfide emissions data from a heated crude oil storage tank with an internal floating roof.

Further, because of the close proximity of the 137-unit Ezra Prentice Homes residential housing development to Global’s facility, the potential for these proposed changes to have significant adverse impacts on the environment must be fully analyzed.”