Northville Terminal Seeks Biofuel Tanks

The United Riverhead Terminal's tank farm in Northville.
The United Riverhead Terminal’s tank farm in Northville.

Residents of Northville are up in arms this month over a proposal by United Riverhead Terminal, Inc., the owners of a home heating oil tank farm and terminal on the Long Island Sound in Northville to build six new biofuel tanks, an expansion of a non-conforming use that has been in a residential zone for 63 years.

Representatives of United Riverhead Terminal say the six tanks, totalling 108,000 gallons in capacity, are necessary due to a newly enacted state law requiring home heating oil to be blended with 5 percent biofuels.

United Riverhead Terminal Vice President Nelson Happy told the Riverhead Town Board at a June 19 public hearing that the company sold 40.2 million gallons of home heating oil last year, and the size of the added tanks is designed to accomodate enough biofuel to mix with the season’s heating oil. He also said the tanks could be used to blend biodiesel automotive fuel if customers desire it.

The tanks would hold what’s known as “yellow grease,” essentially used commercial cooking oil, which has a low volatility compared with other fuel products.

The tanks would not contain ethanol, and the applicants have agreed as a condition of their permit to only store biodiesel there.

Mr. Happy agreed to allow the town fire marshal to inspect the tanks at random to ensure they are being used to hold biodiesel.

Northville Beach Civic Association Vice President Kathy McGraw said neighbors had lived “fairly compatibly” with the terminal for decades until it was purchased by URT four years ago, when the company came to the town looking to allow gasoline storage there.

“For us, the line in the sand is gasoline at that facility,” she said. “We’re not unreasonable people.”

But, she said, URT’s goal of allowing the tanks to also be used for automotive biodiesel customers “has nothing to do with the 5 percent additives for heating oil.”

“This is a perfect example that this facility is not straight-up with the town and the people around it.”

Ms. McGraw said the construction of the tanks is an expansion of a non-conforming use, and the town should require written conditions that the new tanks will only be used to comply with the state law regarding home heating oil, which goes into effect July 1.

Northville Beach resident Tom Hughes said URT owner John Catsimatidis “is posing as [environmentalist] Rachel Carson” by saying the tanks are required due to state environmental laws.

“It might shock you that money gets stuff done in Albany,” he said. “He’s in this for the long battle, and so are we.”

Northville Beach Civic Association Trustee Michael Tochman said that on the first page of URT’s application, they say they want to have the tanks to blend the biofuel with home heating oil “and other products.”

“How wide open are they leaving this?” he asked.

Mr. Happy told the board that if they did not receive the special permit from the town board, the company would “probably abandon selling home heating oil.”

“We can buy pre-blended biofuel, but that’s generally not economical,” he said.

The town board held the hearing open for written comment until June 29, ahead of its next regular meeting July 3.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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