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Environmental Activist Calls for In-Depth Investigation of 'Ancient' Pipeline


An environmental activist has called on the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to require an in-depth investigation of a no longer functioning crude oil pipeline that runs through parts of Upstate New York.

The president of the Ithaca-based environmental database firm Toxics Targeting, Inc., Walter Hang, held a press conference Tuesday at the Broome County Library. Hang said the Olean-Bayonne Pipeline, which was built by the Standard Oil Company in 1881 and operated until the 1920s, could pose contamination hazards in locations between Olean, NY and Bayonne, NJ.

Hang said he requested to review reports of oil contamination investigations a Columbia Gas Transmission consultant sent to the DEC. The reports cite the old pipeline as the probable source of oil release discovery in Catatonk, the Town of Candor and the Town of Barton in Tioga County. The discoveries reportedly took place during preparation for installation of the Millennium Pipeline in 2008. The reports also state measures were taken to investigate if compounds in groundwater and soil samples were detectable above state standards.

Hang said there could be hazardous oil remaining in the over 300-mile long and aging pipeline. He said the DEC needs to require the entire structure in NY be remediated to state standards.

"It's got to be removed. It's got to meet the applicable cleanup standards. You can't just leave it in the ground -- in the vicinity of water ways, wetlands, and buildings," said Hang.

The DEC responded with the following statement -- provided by the Director of the Office of Media Relations, Erica Ringewald:

"The remediation of the Olean Refinery is being addressed through New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The State has an Order with ExxonMobil that holds the company responsible for any off-site contamination from the Olean site. In addition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a history of holding ExxonMobil responsible for the historic Standard Oil Company refinery operations, including historic refineries in Greenpoint and Queens. DEC will continue to hold ExxonMobil responsible to clean up any contamination in New York State resulting from the Olean, NY, to Bayonne, NJ, pipeline built by Standard Oil in 1881. All reported spills have been addressed or are being addressed."

ExxonMobil is a descendant of the old Standard Oil Company.

On Tuesday, Hang also called upon Governor Andrew Cuomo to adopt a mormatorium, or suspension, on all pipeline approvals in the state.