Pilgrim’s Progress?

Plans are afoot to build a pair of oil pipelines from Albany to New Jersey. But state environmental groups—as well as local towns and villages—are dead-set against the project.

Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings LLC, a private transportation company, has proposed building two parallel, 168-mile oil pipelines from the port at Albany to Linden, New Jersey. One line would carry crude oil—including Bakken shale crude from North Dakota—to the south; the other would transport refined products (such as home heating oil, gasoline, and kerosene) north. The line would cost approximately $1 billion to construct.

If approved, in New York most of the pipeline would be located on land adjacent to the New York State Thruway, passing through more than 30 towns and cities in six counties — all of them in the Hudson Valley. Approximately 40 miles of the line (or its collateral pump stations, access roads, etc.) would be located near homes, businesses, parks, and farms.


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Pilgrim Pipelines and—possibly—the state Thruway Authority, which stands to benefit financially if the company leases its land. At this point, however, the agency has not taken a stand on the issue. The Coalition to Support Pilgrim Pipeline, a group of New Jersey labor unions and business associations, also backs the plan.

Proponents point out that transporting petroleum products via underground pipeline is much safer than using barges or tanker cars on trains, whose spill risks are seven times greater than those associated with a pipeline. Use of the pipeline would be more environmental friendly than the system now in place, which relies on trucks and barges that cause greenhouse gas emissions. And economically, the pipeline would be a boon to the region: Pilgrim estimates that 2,000 construction jobs would be created by the project.


Just about all local environmental groups, including Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper; 23 NYS municipalities (and 40 in NJ), which have passed resolutions opposing the project; the grassroots Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline (CAPP), and Assemblyman Frank Skartados (D-Milton), who has proposed a bill that would make it illegal to transport hazardous liquids near the Thruway.

Critics argue that the pipeline, which would cross the Hudson River (twice) and all major tributaries on its western side, poses a major threat to the environment, including the possible destruction of wetlands and sensitive wildlife habitats. Humans are at risk, too: Bakkan shale crude is highly volatile, and pipeline leaks are not unheard of; some say they pose an even greater threat than train tanker-car accidents (one of which killed 47 people in Canada in 2013). Opponents of the plan also argue that the region would bear all the environmental burdens and safety risks, but would not reap any long-term benefits from construction of the pipeline.

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In November 2015, Pilgrim submitted applications for permits to use the Thruway’s land; these are currently under review by the Thruway Authority and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In early May, protesters lined up near Thruway entrances in New Paltz, Saugerties, and Catskill to voice their opposition to the proposal and raise public awareness.

Legislators in New Jersey have already voted to oppose the plan, but New York lawmakers have yet to do the same. In late April, the state DEC rejected plans for the Constitution Pipeline, which would have brought natural gas into the state from Pennsylvania—a move that opponents hope signals a similar decision on the Pilgrim project may be offing.

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