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DEC Public Hearing On AIM Project Draws Both Sides

Spectra Energy

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation held a public hearing Thursday in Rockland County’s Stony Point concerning a proposed pipeline expansion project. More than 40 speakers offered comments in front of a full audience.

Much of the Algonquin Incremental Market, or AIM, Project, is replacing 26-inch diameter pipeline with 42-inch diameter pipeline. The project would begin in Rockland County, and move through Westchester and Putnam Counties before heading into Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is reviewing permits for the expansion of two compressor stations – one in Southeast, in Putnam County; the other in Stony Point, in Rockland County.

Susan Filgueras sells natural gas for a different energy company. She also lives in the Stony Point hamlet of Tompkins Cove, about 600 feet from the pipeline and near the compressor station.

“I’m calling for an independent monitor to be put in place permanently for air quality and to check the emissions from the compressor station itself,” says Filgueras. “It’s very difficult for residents to figure out what legal entity is going to be doing what. And sometimes these things fall through the cracks. I’m not saying yes to the pipeline. I’m not saying no. What I’m saying is give us the tools we need and protect us.”

Marylee Hanley is spokeswoman for Houston-based Spectra Energy, which operates the more than 1,000-mile pipeline from New Jersey to Boston. The expansion is for a portion of this pipeline.

“The Algonquin Gas Transmission Company has been operating its pipeline here in the region for more than 60 years, safely,” says Hanley. “And this project is very environmentally and community minded in that it’s going to be using, 93 percent of the entire project is going to be using existing rights of way.”

Several members of a group called Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion were in attendance, calling on DEC to reject permits for Spectra based on environmental and health concerns. They say hydrofracked gas emissions from compressor stations contain toxins that pose serious health risks, and point to state officials’ decision in December to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York. Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina, a Republican, says he does have environmental concerns, but opposes the project on a different premise.

“We passed a resolution mimicking Westchester County’s concerns,” says Catalina. “Primarily, my major concern with this is in the event, what if. If there were a disaster, we are ill equipped to handle the public safety aspects of it. We don’t have the manpower for police or fire, emergency responders, to respond to this. And my number-one goal as an elected official is the public safety of my residents and I cannot in good conscience say that we are prepared for that type of an emergency.”

Democratic Stony Point Town Supervisor Geoffrey Finn supports the project. So does local labor, whose members turned out in large number for the hearing. Steven Reich is business manager of Laborers Local 754 of Rockland County.

“Spectra’s committed to us and other trades to use our people, paying high quality wages, union benefits, union wages, 100 percent across the board,” says Reich.

Elected officials and residents in Westchester have voiced concern over environmental impacts to Reynolds Hill and Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill and the Town of Cortlandt. Plus, the expansion includes property belonging to the Buchanan-based Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined the project does not add significant safety risk, based on an NRC review and analysis submitted from Indian Point-owner Entergy Nuclear. Some elected officials, including Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, and community members maintain further risk assessment and review are needed.

The DEC’s public comment period ends February 27. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has overall approval authority for the project. FERC has not yet issued a final environmental impact statement.

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