NY-NJ pipeline needs serious consideration

A proposed 178-mile pipeline between the port of Albany and northern New Jersey is drawing criticism from environmental groups that claim it would place residential areas at serious risk of a devastating oil spill.

This is a legitimate concern, but it must be balanced against the risk of oil spills from train and barge accidents if the pipeline isn’t built. Building it could help the economy, and it might be less risky than other forms of oil transport.

The pipeline would carry North Dakota crude oil from a train terminal at the Port of Albany to coastal refineries, and it would return gasoline, diesel, heating oil and other petroleum products to upstate New York. Proponents argue it would eliminate a large amount of oil shipments by train and barge, both of which pose significant spill risks. Meanwhile, groups like the Sierra Club are trying to sway New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into opposing the project. The pipeline, which would cost billions, still needs a number of key state permits in both New York and New Jersey.

Oil spills from trains seem to be more frequent than those from leaky pipelines, especially after the numerous, scary train accidents the U.S. and Canada have seen in the last year.

Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings spokesman Paul Nathanson has said “the spill risk for barges is almost seven times greater than that of pipelines” and that the pipeline would remove 1,000 barges from the Hudson River. That’s major.

Pipelines, however, do rupture, such as in March 2013 when an ExxonMobil pipeline spilled Canadian crude from the Athabasca oil sands in Mayflower, Arkansas. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, proposed to go from Canada through the U.S. and being held up by the president, could be expected to have, by a leading estimate by John Stansbury, 11 to 91 spills over its 50-year lifespan.

Also, we wonder whether the Albany-Jersey pipeline would increase the volume of North Dakota crude oil being shipped by rail north of Albany along the Lake Champlain shore. As we’ve said before, that’s a dangerous situation; we’re not comfortable with it at all.

It’s a big decision for Govs. Cuomo and Christie. We hope they will not bow to pressure from lobbyists and will instead be careful and honest in weighing the potential benefits and risks of the pipeline.

Oil will be transported anyway and should therefore be done by the safest and cleanest way.