Friday, 08 July 2016 10:30

Oil Transport “Environmental Insult”

By Eli King | News
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs City Council will petition the Department of Environmental Conservation and the State Thruway Authority for localized information on the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline, including the volume of train traffic expected to carry volatile crude oil containers along the interstate and through Saratoga Springs. A presentation made Tuesday, July 5, at the City Council meeting by Sustainable Saratoga’s Climate and Energy Committee Chair, Bill Boehmke, outlined how the railway through Saratoga would carry oil to supplement the proposed pipeline from Albany to New Jersey. Now in SEQRA review, the application by Pilgrim raises concerns about the potential impact of the pipeline on local residents and resources. “Within the one-mile emergency evacuation zone of this rail route, Saratoga Springs has four public schools, Saratoga Hospital, Skidmore College and many city residences and businesses...this increase in potentially dangerous crude oil train traffic through our city and its potential impact on our safety have not been addressed in Pilgrim’s application or in the draft Environmental Impact Statement,” said Boehmke during Tuesday’s presentation. City Council officials unanimously passed a resolution to address some of these questions in a scoping letter to the DEC and Thruway Authority, who have lead agency status, when the window for comments is opened. That period has not yet been announced, but could begin any day and last only a month. The council agreed to take a proactive approach on behalf of Saratoga residents. “You’re looking at a really long-term commitment to this kind of transport of oil through the area,” said Commissioner of Public Safety, Chris Mathiesen, “I think this is an insult to the northeast, frankly. From my standpoint, this is an environmental insult to the northeast.” The rest of the council meeting included standard city business, as well as discussions about Saratoga’s senior population, with approximately half the attendees showing in support of the Saratoga Senior Center and the city’s efforts to service the growing demographic. “There’s a shift in senior living and how [seniors] choose to be active and live right where the action is happening,” said one speaker during public comment, “meaning having access to senior centers, stores, grocery stores, etc.” The speaker further noted that the Saratoga Senior Center currently gets by using one vehicle for a membership base of now over 1,000, and voiced hopes that grant funding could improve transportation for their multitude of programs and trips. But according to the Center’s Executive Director, Lois Celeste, 2016 has been the hardest year for grants since the beginning of her tenure in 2010 with three declined applications for funding so far. City funding for the center has remained flat at 15 percent since she took over the role. “They’ve been incredibly helpful,” said Celeste, “but we are certainly looking for more support for our programs.” Celeste indicated that the Board of Directors for the agency shares the concern, and are “definitely worried” about sustainability given the current conditions. Seventy percent of the seniors serviced by the center are residents of Saratoga Springs who rely on programs like volunteer matching to fill voids where funding falls short. Also noted at the council meeting was a recent two-day string of compliance checks and sting operations that resulted in 30 documented attempts of underage alcohol purchases being denied by local businesses like Stewart’s and Rite Aid in an effort to combat underage drinking. An announcement was made recognizing Saratoga Springs’ rank as having one of the top ten Main Streets in the country, with Broadway placing seventh out of ten in a recent USA Today Readers’ Choice poll. Meeting minutes and the city’s upcoming meeting schedule can be found at For more on the Saratoga Senior Center and its programs, visit
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