Assemblymember Didi Barrett’s (D – Columbia, Dutchess) legislation asserting the state’s authority over the Hudson River by expanding the criteria used to establish “tanker avoidance zones” beyond existing navigational standards was signed into law today by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. As a result of the legislation, which was sponsored by Senator Sue Serino (R – Hyde Park) in the State Senate, the prospect of a massive expansion of crude oil shipments along the Hudson River will be greatly diminished, thereby safeguarding riverfront communities, drinking water supplies, and significant wildlife habitats. Today’s announcement is a milestone for the future health of the Hudson River and a victory for all those who opposed the U.S. Coast Guard’s proposal to allow large increases in petroleum vessel traffic along a 91-mile stretch between Kingston, Ulster County and Yonkers, Westchester County.
“With this law now in place, the state is in a much stronger position to keep future anchorages from being sited anywhere along the Hudson River. An increase in petroleum tankers would pose a direct threat to coastal fish and wildlife, local drinking water, the safety of waterfront communities, and economic development in our beautiful region,” said Assemblymember Barrett. “This is truly a victory for everyone who voiced their opposition to the Coast Guard’s ill-advised proposal. I thank Scenic Hudson for its partnership and commend the Governor for signing this significant measure to further protect the Hudson River.”
While the U.S. Coast Guard has since announced the suspension of its controversial anchorage proposal, New York State’s role in keeping appropriate safeguards in place to protect the Hudson River has never been more important. Known as America’s River, the Hudson is both an iconic piece of New York State’s rich history and a vital economic, recreational, natural and cultural resource for millions of people who live, work and enjoy it today; these are the most compelling reasons to keep it protected. Widespread opposition to the Coast Guard’s proposal from residents, environmental groups and waterfront municipalities resulted in the adoption of over 40 resolutions and endorsements of A.6825A/S.5197B by impacted communities.
“This is a major victory for our local communities, our local environment and the Hudson River,” said Senator Sue Serino. “We asked residents to step up and make their voices heard on this important issue and the community responded in full force, ensuring that the state will have the power to better protect one of our area’s greatest natural resources. I thank the Governor for recognizing the importance of protecting the significant investments our communities have made by signing this important legislation and I am grateful for all of those – especially Scenic Hudson – who took the time to help us tackle this issue head on.”
“Governor Cuomo has taken bold and decisive action by signing into law legislation that protects the Hudson River from barges and tanker ships that carry dangerous petroleum-based products and other hazardous material,” said Ned Sullivan, President, Scenic Hudson. “This legislation was borne from a tidal wave of civic engagement along the river. Assemblywoman Didi Barrett and Senator Sue Serino responded to public concern in working with fellow legislators to pass this bill with near unanimous bipartisan support in both houses. Now, we call on the Department of Environmental Conservation to do its part by issuing regulations to protect the Hudson River and the natural and community resources of the region.”
Since the federal ban on exports of domestic crude oil was lifted by Congress in December 2015, New York has had an increased responsibility to assert its concurrent jurisdiction over the navigable waterways of the state. The anchorages law does just that. The Coast Guard’s plan, while suspended, is not gone; the Coast Guard has announced it will conduct a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (PAWSA) on the Hudson River to identify and evaluate the risks of the proposal and allow waterway stakeholders an opportunity to be part of that process. Additional information about a PAWSA and the entire process can be found at the Coast Guard Navigation Center website: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/