A new state law restricting areas where oil barges can anchor on the river was passed last week.
The law comes nearly two years after a Coast Guard proposal for 10 new anchorages on the Hudson sparked fierce opposition, culminating in over 10,000 public comments from concerned citizens and the plan’s withdrawal in June. Opponents began calling for legislation to protect against similar proposals in the future. The new law does this not by banning anchorages, but by establishing tough guidelines for any future proposals.
The law “bolster[s] the state’s jurisdiction over the river, putting it in a stronger position to prevent anchorages from being sited at points that pose a clear and direct threat to the environment, quality of life and local economic development goals,” stated Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, a co-sponsor of the legislation.
The proposal would have created 10 new zones where barges could anchor overnight, including Kingston, Highland, Milton, Port Ewen and Newburgh, accommodating a total of 43 barges at one time. Currently there are only two authorized anchorages on the Hudson; one off Yonkers and the other off Hyde Park.
The anchorages would have increased the potential for moving crude oil down the Hudson. A letter to the Coast Guard from the industry noted that “trade will increase on the Hudson River significantly” due to the lifting of the ban.
The Hudson Valley has become a corridor for crude oil shipments from North Dakota oilfields to New Jersey refineries. The need to get the oil from point A to point B has resulted in increase in the number of barges and freight trains carrying oil and a proposed pipeline. Environmental groups have opposed them all, pointing out to the risks of spills, and reasoning that any barriers to the transportation of crude oil will increase its cost and hasten the adoption of renewable energy.
The new law doesn’t ban anchorages, but it does provide a list of guidelines for “tanker avoidance zones” for the DEC to consider. According to the governor’s office, these include “navigational hazards; environmental conditions; the existence of designated significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats; proximity to waterfront communities; disproportionate impacts on communities; and federally or state identified environmental remediation sites; and may consider an affected community’s waterfront revitalization plan or comprehensive plan and the environmental justice communities’ impacts.”
This list gives opponents of the anchorages plenty to work with should any future proposals be made, and has been taken as a victory by environmental groups. “Thank you to Governor Cuomo and our dedicated elected officials for passing legislation to protect the Hudson River and the natural and community resources of the region!” reads the headline on Scenic Hudson’s website.