Saturday, August 20, 2016

Concerned New Yorkers Meet and Urge Leaders to Press for Immediate Halt to Spectra Energy ’ s AIM Pipeline

Photo Credit: Erik McGregor

Community members insist that pipeline construction has reached a "state of emergency" with pipeline scheduled to be operational by November

New York, NY –  Over 100 people gathered today in front of Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrands offices in Manhattan to urge Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Governor Cuomo to push harder for a complete halt to construction on the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Pipeline Project. On May 20th the groups convened to thank the Senators for publicly calling for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to halt construction on the project. Since then, FERC has ignored their requests to halt construction in the interest of public safety. Those gathered today said the Senators must act now, and every day as necessary, to force FERC to halt work before the pipeline goes into service in November, going all the way to the White House.

Among those present were representatives of numerous organizations that work state-wide, regionally, and nationally, including: Sane Energy Project, Safe Energy Rights Group, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, and ResistAIM, as well as many angered residents and community members affected by the pipeline construction, and their allies from across the state. The groups are opposed to the project due to concerns about local impacts to health and safety, the regional risk of siting the pipeline next to Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, and global concerns about the fracked methane gas the pipeline will carry contributing to climate change.

Tina Bongar, a resident of Peekskill who works with ResistAIM said, "We are here to remind our Senators that they have the power and influence to stop this project if they choose to act. Spectra Energy is working to complete this pipeline every single day. Our Senators must act every single day until this project stops. They have an obligation to protect the people of New York. We know they can do it."

Courtney Williams, Vice President of SEnRG, was emphatic, "We are in a state of emergency. This pipeline could be operational in a matter of weeks. It is unacceptable that Spectra Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are ignoring the calls of our Governor and Senators to halt construction. We are calling on our leaders to take immediate action for the safety of all New Yorkers. FERC has ignored them, now they must go to the President who appoints the FERC commissioners." Those assembled are asking Gillibrand and Schumer to join with Senators from other impacted states to conduct a joint press conference to bring national attention to this crisis, intervene further with FERC, support the call for a Government Accountability Office or congressional investigation of FERC, and join with other New York State elected officials to urge President Obama to step in to immediately halt the pipeline project. 

This is just the latest development in an ongoing effort to stop Spectra Energy from constructing their massive Algonquin Incremental Market Expansion project only 105 feet from critical safety infrastructure at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. On August 3rd, both New York Senators wrote to FERC,  calling for an immediate halt to construction of the pipeline. Earlier, on February 29, 2016,  New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called for an immediate halt to construction while the state conducts an independent risk assessment. FERC has the legal authority to issue a stop work order, yet continues to ignore elected officials' calls for protection of public safety.

Spectra Energy's planned expansion of the Algonquin Pipeline has faced a series of setbacks in recent weeks from the revelation that the Natural Resources Group (NRG)  the company hired by FERC to conduct the environmental assessment of AIM had a financial relationship with Spectra, to the  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's overturning a "pipeline tax" to pay for construction of the pipeline, and the  uncertain future of a planned power plant that would use gas from the pipeline.

In addition to actions by the New York elected officials, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Ed Markey have requested rehearings and  pressed FERC to address conflicts of interest arising from the third party contractor, NRG, hired to perform the environmental assessment on another part of the AIM pipeline network. Yesterday the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts blocked an effort by Spectra and electric companies to pass the costs of the pipeline construction on to ratepayers, removing a potential $3 billion dollars in "pipeline tax" financing. Rhode Island and Connecticut are also in the pipeline path; Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island and both Senators from Connecticut have so far remained silent on this issue despite objections of their constituents.

FERC is also facing legal pressure to halt construction. The City of Boston, the Town of Dedham, MA, and a coalition of groups from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have  filed a  law suit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeking to overturn FERC's approval of the AIM pipeline. The briefs site a variety of issues, from a faulty risk assessment of siting the pipeline adjacent to the nuclear power plant, to violations of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Safe Energy Rights Group President and affected property owner Nancy Vann said “This project never should have been approved – but FERC has only turned down one pipeline project in its entire 40-year history.”

Spectra Energys proposed AIM Pipeline is a high-pressure, 42-inch diameter methane gas pipeline that would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New England,  despite a report from the Massachusetts Attorney General that shows no need for this gas. In New York, if completed, the AIM Pipeline would carry gas through residential communities and within 105 feet of critical Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant safety facilities. Just last April, Spectra Energys Texas Eastern  line erupted in a giant explosion due to pipeline corrosion, and New Yorkers fear what an explosion of this magnitude could mean in such close proximity to Indian Point. Over the last several years, communities along the pipeline route, as well as their local elected officials, have risen up against the pipeline, and now they are counting on New York Senators and Governor to escalate their objections and stop this dangerous project.
For more information, check out the Facebook event  HERE

Photo Credit: Erik McGregor

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