Westchester Legislators Want Stricter Review Process for Gas Pipeline Expansion

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White Plains, NY – The Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) announced today passage of a resolution calling for a stricter review process and full risk assessments in regard to the proposed expansion of the Algonquin natural gas pipeline through the county by Houston, Texas-based Spectra Gas Corporation. The major construction project would replace existing section of the existing 26-inch diameter pipe for pressurized gas with new 42-inch pipe from Rockland County to Massachusetts via Northern Westchester and Putnam County. Included in the project would be a tunnel built for the pipeline beneath the Hudson River and expansion of compressor stations situated in Stony Point and Southeast, plus metering and regulating stations along the way.

The approved resolution from the BOL, which was approved in a vote of 15 to 1 at its regular meeting held this morning, focuses primarily on two specific risks regarding the proposed pipeline: 1) its location in highly populated areas in Westchester, where potential accidents and regular emissions could be harmful to the populace, and 2) proximity to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and two geological faults.

“Our first concern must be for the protection of our residents and the environment,” said BOL Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers). “This resolution embodies important safety and environmental standards that must be upheld before permission is granted to construct the pipeline.”

In its resolution, the BOL notes that the resource report submitted by Spectra Energy Partners does not reflect aggregate and cumulative emissions from compressor stations, metering stations and pipelines in the proposed expansion project. A number of health problems have been associated with emissions from compressor stations, which push the pressurized natural gas through the pipeline. These emissions typically include a number of toxic chemicals and compounds that result in ground level ozone and degraded air quality.

“We’re asking all Federal and State agencies involved with this process to make the health and safety of residents, workers and all other stakeholders their top priority,” said BOL Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining). “We agree that meeting our region’s energy needs is a priority for further economic development, but the review, permitting, and approval process must be stringent to ensure environmental and safety concerns are addressed and needed mitigation plans are in place.”

Added Legislator Catherine Parker (D-Rye), chair of the BOL Environment & Energy Committee, where the resolution was first passed by BOL members, “No one should sign off on this project until we know for sure that air quality for Westchester residents will not be affected, and that every conceivable safety measure and emergency contingency plan is in place. The bar for this project has to be at the highest level imaginable. Anything less simply increases the chances of a catastrophe and long-term health risks.”

A chief concern for the BOL members is that the significant risks inherent in the proposed gas pipeline aren’t covered in the usual state and federal review processes for projects as such.

“This particular project definitely calls for a more stringent review,” said Legislator Pete Harckham (D-North Salem). “There will need to be independent assessments and monitoring completed before permitting takes place, all of which should be funded by Spectra, and then continuous monitoring of air, water and land around the pipeline after its built.”

Harckham remarked that his BOL colleagues worry about blowdowns, when the gas is removed from the pipeline at various stations for maintenance. One such station is to be situated in Peekskill, where the equipment for a Pipeline Inspection Gauge (PIG) launching and staging area, will be adjacent to a school and playground. In the resolution, the BOL asks for immediate notifications of unplanned blowdowns are given to municipal and County officials, and that health impact assessments for these incidents are made as well.

Susan Van Dolsen, co-founder of Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) and co-chair of Westchester for Change, said, “We thank our pro-active Westchester legislators for protecting us by passing this resolution calling for the imperative measures of a risk assessment, baseline air testing, SEQR, and a Health Impact Assessment to ensure health and safety for Westchester residents.”

Suzannah Glidden, SAPE co-founder and board director of Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition, stated, “We count on our Westchester legislators’ strenuous advocacy and follow through to make sure all resolution measures are executed before permits are issued on Spectra Energy’s ill-conceived and unacceptably dangerous proposed high-pressure, forty-two-inch diameter Algonquin natural gas pipeline right next to Indian Point.”

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