ALBANY, N.Y. – Concerned citizens and local leaders have had their voices heard after Albany County Executive Dan McCoy put a stop to plans after Global Partners wanted to expand crude oil processing at the Port of Albany.
It's the first moratorium of its kind in New York State and according to officials, the first of this type in the country. County Executive Dan McCoy signed an order Wednesday morning placing a ban on the expansion of processing crude oil by Global Partners at the Port of Albany pending a public health investigation.
"We have the authority to do it. We're going to stop it until all of these questions are answered," McCoy said.
Leaders expressed those health concerns on Wednesday. Dr. David Carpenter, Director of the Institute of Health and Environment at UAlbany stated that the DEC's air quality regulations are not sufficient because they don't include all of the chemicals associated with heating and storing crude oil at the port. Carpenter said people can suffer from headaches and respiratory infections because of the toxic chemicals released.
Albany County ordered the health department to determine the health risk posed to residents and under the NYS health law the department must address the threats to public health or safety. The moratorium also directs the health department to work with the sheriff's department and other county departments to determine the impact a large scale disaster would pose to the public.
Charlene Benton is the president of the Ezra Prentice Tenant Association. She has continuously spoken out on the issue and applauded McCoy's decision.
"What I don't understand is why don't we deserve the right to be healthy and safe," she said.
Benton lives near the port, and she described having the exact symptoms described by Dr. Carpenter.
"You know, I've certainly been having headaches," she said. "I've had a lot of nose bleeds and mucus when you blow your nose."
Benton is satisfied to know that the moratorium won't be lifted until a public health study is conducted by the county health department as well as a study on the impact a large scale disaster could pose to the public.
However, Benton said she has not been informed of an evacuation plan. McCoy said that will need to be addressed once Global Partners shares what type of oil and materials they are transporting and storing.
"I'm in fear for my life and the lives of so many people in my community, and it's not only going to affect Ezra, it's going to affect all the downtown area; all of Albany," Benton said.
There is no word on how long this health report will take. Global Partners is seeking to build several large boilers at the Port, which is put on hold with the order.
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