New York Environmental Cleanup Chief On Potential Oil Spills: ‘I Don’t Know’ If We’re Ready

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Groll

In early spring of this year, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation quietly approved a request from a Texas oil company to double the amount of crude oil and ethanol it ships through the Port of Albany down the Hudson River every year. The company’s proposal for the permits received no public comments, allowing Buckeye Partners to ship 1 billion gallons of crude and 780 million gallons of ethanol through the Port annually.

The announcement generated some fanfare among Albany’s residents. As they had recently learned, the Port of Albany is the destination for Bakken shale crude oil that goes to Irving Oil Co.’s St. John, New Brunswick refinery — the same refinery that the tanker train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec was heading to when it derailed, killing 40.

And now, after an inquiry from Capital New York, the head of the DEC’s spill cleanup division is saying he’s unsure if the agency is ready to handle a disaster like the one that happened in Lac-Megantic, or any major spill event.

Scott Waldman of Capital New York reports:

State authorities are allowing a sharply increased amount of crude oil to be moved through New York by ship and rail, and safety workers are scrambling to keep up. “To be honest, I don’t know,” said Dennis Farrar, chief of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Remediation Division, when asked if state agencies were ready to respond to a major event on the Hudson River. “Until we have a drill or a review of plans or an event, we really don’t know.”

Farrar had spoken to reporters last month at a cleanup drill, which was the first in more than a decade, according to the report. Preparatory drills were, in part, spurred by an incident last winter when an oil tanker carrying 12 million gallons of crude oil down the Hudson ran aground and ruptured its hull, causing two holes. No oil spilled, but the incident was a close call.

ThinkProgress has reached out to the DEC for comment, but has not yet heard back.


Lisa King, the public information officer at the DEC, said in an e-mail that Capital New York had taken the quote “out of context.” Her full statement: “The quote was taken out of context and said at last month’s emergency response drill. The drill allowed the various response agencies to improve their actions, communication and familiarity in preparation for a real event. The drill was a success and DEC and its partner agencies stand ready to respond to spill emergencies should one arise on the Hudson River.”

Share Update