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Measure passed by Environment Committee on April 9 would ask DEC to complete oil-spill environmental impact study of Hudson

Published: 4/10/2015

Poughkeepsie, NY – Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Rob Rolison announced today that the legislature’s Environment Committee passed a resolution on April 9 to request that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) complete a study of the potential impacts of a crude oil spill in or near the Hudson River. The bipartisan measure was sponsored by Rolison, Majority Leader Angela Flesland, Assistant Majority Leader Donna Bolner, Minority Leader Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Assistant Minority Leader Alison MacAvery, and others. It passed by a vote of 11 to 1. There is no cost to county taxpayers associated with the study.

If approved by the full legislature on April 13 and signed into law, the resolution would request that the DEC complete a full environmental impact study, known as a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), related to the impacts of a crude oil spill in or near the Hudson River. Booming domestic production has resulted in a greater frequency of oil shipments by rail. On January 28, 2014, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 125 directing state agencies to perform a review of “safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to rail and water shipments” of crude oil.

Approximately two crude oil freight trains travel through neighboring Ulster County per day, and each day one barge passes along the Hudson River between Ulster and Dutchess counties carrying more than four million gallons of oil. Dutchess County shares 103 linear miles of shoreline with the river, according to the county Department of Planning and Development. Since December 2013 there have been at least four oil-train derailments in New York State, including an incident in the Town of Ulster in February 2014. Plans to expand a terminal in New Windsor, Orange County could double the number of trains and barges carrying crude oil in the vicinity of Dutchess County residents and businesses.

“I applaud the Legislature for taking the responsible steps necessary to ensure the safety of our residents. We are calling on the DEC to bring its considerable resources to bear on a study that will serve as an additional emergency planning tool for Dutchess County in order to mitigate any impacts from a potential oil spill,” said County Executive Marc Molinaro.
“Given the recent history of derailments in New York, there are legitimate public concerns that crude oil transportation along the Hudson River could potentially endanger lives and property in Dutchess County, particularly in concentrated areas such as the City of Poughkeepsie. By passing this resolution, we are a step closer to developing a comprehensive study that would allow stakeholders to prepare for and respond to an emergency more effectively. We owe it to our residents to plan proactively rather than react ineffectively, and this measure will put the necessary tools in the hands of local emergency experts,” said Rolison.

“Our response capacity to a potential disaster rests on our ability to actually study the problem and develop a real plan to keep our residents and their property safe. I encourage my colleagues to pass this measure so that Dutchess County residents can have the peace of mind that a plan is in place to protect them. We should not wait for a tragedy to strike to take practical, common-sense steps to study, prepare, and implement a response to oil spills or other disasters on the Hudson River,” said Flesland.

A copy of the resolution can be found here.