Thursday, April 6, 2017

Caring About the River

Late on Tuesday night, the tide lifted the barge carrying 66,000 gallons of gasoline off the rocks near Dutchman's Point, and it floated on down the river without serious incident. Coincidentally, the next night--last night--a crowd of Hudsonians filled the North Hall at Basilica Hudson to consider the threats for the Hudson River of which the accident was an example.   
Photo: Victor Mendolia
The evening began with the screening of four films in the series by Jon BowermasterThe Hudson: A River at Risk. If you missed last night's screening or if you want to review what you saw, all of them can be viewed online:

Threats to the Hudson River and the communities along the river was the common theme of all four films, but three dealt specifically with what is a fairly new threat: the transport of crude oil, bound for other places, through the Hudson Valley--by train, by pipeline, and by barge. Throughout the three films dealing with these issues, the point was made repeatedly that moving crude oil on and along the Hudson River brings all risk and no benefit to our region.

After the screening, there was a question and and answer period with a panel consisting of Melissa Auf der Maur, co-founder and director of Basilica Hudson; Sam Merrett, captain of the Apollonia; Andy Bicking, director of public policy at Scenic Hudson; Cliff Weathers, communications director for Riverkeeper; and filmmaker Jon Bowermaster.

Photo: Victor Mendolia
When the discussion was opened to questions from the audience, the first one came from Peter Jung, who asked, "What percentage of oil passing through the Hudson Valley is getting shipped overseas?" In responding to the question, Bicking explained that in December 2015 a 40-year-old ban on the export of crude oil from the United States had been repealed. This action allows crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to be shipped abroad. The feverish increase in oil being shipped through the Hudson Valley in railroad cars and barges and the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline is a consequence of repealing the ban, which was imposed in the 1970s when there was an oil shortage in the U.S. The proposed anchorage sites on the Hudson--forty-three berths in ten locations from Yonkers to Kingston--are seen as part of this fossil fuel frenzy. It is believed that barges will be parked, full or empty, on the Hudson River, waiting for the price of oil to rise. "Once the market price goes up," Weathers predicted, "the Hudson River could become something like Galveston. . . . The Hudson Valley could be transformed into an energy corridor."

The discussion provided updates on the status of the two proposed projects: the anchorage sites and the Pilgrim Pipeline

Hudson River Anchorage Sites  The U.S. Coast Guard, which is considering this request from industry because they are obligated to do so, is now reviewing the 10,000 comments submitted by the public. (Apparently, the Coast Guard is accustomed to getting only about twenty comments.) There are also thirty-four resolutions from municipal governments opposing the anchorage sites. At the end of March, Senator Sue Serino, a Republican, and Assemblymember Didi Barrett, a Democrat, introduced legislation at the state level intended to safeguard the river from the proposed anchorage sites.

Pilgrim Pipeline  This is the moment for people to get educated about this project. The public comment period has not started yet, but it is expected to soon. The Hudson Conservation Advisory Council is drafting a resolution to present to the Common Council opposing the project. At the CAC meeting on Tuesday, it was noted that sixty towns and cities on the west side of the river have already passed resolutions opposing the project and some on the east side of the river have done so as well. As has been pointed out at previous CAC meetings, the pipeline would cross Catskill Creek, and something spilled in Catskill Creek will reach Hudson in just one tide cycle.


  1. Victor, don't clean your lens. It looks like a conversation from the 1860s, a time when the people of Hudson lived and worked the fog and smog of the Hudson. The question before us is How do we keep that connection to the river and the life that it inspires. And thank you Carole, for this report. --peter meyer

  2. OK Folks, if you don't want your petroleum products delivered by rail, pipeline, or water vessel, are you welcome to THOUSANDS of more trucks on the highways carrying these products and more rapidly deteriorating our roads and Bridges?