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FERC Authorizes Algonquin To Put Most Of Its Pipeline Into Service

Courtesy of Spectra Energy

The company behind the AIM pipeline project has been given the green light to start operations. There are a few exceptions, mainly a new portion under the Hudson River.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently issued partial authorization for Spectra Energy to operate its Algonquin Incremental Market, or AIM Project, with the exception of the portion under the Hudson River along with two meter and regulating stations, one in Windham County, Connecticut, and another in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Algonquin had requested such authorization with those exceptions. Courtney Williams is a Peekskill resident.

“As a homeowner who lives 400 feet from the pipeline, I received no notification on whether they’re turning on the gas or not,” Williams says. “And then a parent whose daughter goes to a school 400 feet from the pipeline, I have not, as far as I know the school has not been notified of their plans to turn on the gas either,” Williams says.

Williams is also vice president of Safe Energy Rights Group, and is calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials to step in and halt the project.

“It is most definitely the eleventh hour for our elected officials and it’s time that they stepped up and did whatever it takes to stop this project,” says Williams.

A Spectra spokeswoman says FERC approved Algonquin’s request to provide up to 245,000 dekatherms per day. The total AIM Project capacity is 342,000 dekatherms per day. She says Algonquin will use its existing crossings of the Hudson River for the service until the new construction is complete and authorized by FERC. John Parker is director of legal programs for Westchester County-based Riverkeeper and speaks to Spectra’s change of plans for the pipeline portion in the River, noting the existing pipeline is smaller than the pipeline into which it connects on land.

“The entire question of horizontal directional drilling was one of the ways that this company proposed to minimize, or decrease, impacts to the Hudson River. And now that that has run afoul of their plans and they kind of dropped the ball on it, I think questions are open again,” says Parker.  “So I would anticipate that the Administration would take a look at this and be very strict and rigorous with respect to Clean Water Act water quality certification and the Clean Air Act information I just mentioned.”

A state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman released a statement that says, in part, “The State has been clear and has repeatedly called upon FERC to halt the construction of this pipeline until an independent safety analysis can be completed.” He says that at the governor’s February direction, the state has hired an independent consultant to conduct a risk assessment review. Again, Parker.

“There’s concern about whether or not this contingency really was researched, evaluated and determined to be safe and effective. And, in a rush to get a pipeline online, that’s not really the situation we want to see,” Parker says. “So this question of whether or not the permits that were granted allowed this, from the state anyway, to happen in terms of the amount of compression of the gas is one of the questions being raised and that would do direct impact to the Clean Air Act permits that were issued.”

Much of Houston-based Spectra’s AIM pipeline is replacing 26-diameter pipeline with 42-inch diameter pipeline. The project starts in Rockland County and moves through Westchester and Putnam Counties before heading into Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

On October 27, hundreds of pipeline opponents rallied outside eight of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s offices, including in Peekskill. Opponents say 15 people were arrested after refusing to leave until Schumer took action. Again, Williams.

“Senator Schumer has had press conferences on everything from dish detergent pods to powdered caffeine, but he’s never held a press conference on this pipeline next to Indian Point,” says Williams.

The AIM pipeline runs through a portion of the Buchanan-based Indian Point nuclear power plant property. A Schumer spokesman, in a statement, says, “Senator Schumer has repeatedly and clearly expressed his opposition to the Algonquin gas pipeline because it poses a serious threat to the health and safety of residents and our environment across the Hudson Valley and New York state.”

And while opponents note Schumer has spoken to the project’s risk, they are hopeful he’ll take further action. In August, Schumer and fellow Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asked FERC to suspend pipeline construction in light of continued public opposition. The senators requested that FERC commission an independent review of the potential health, safety and environmental impacts. In September, New York Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel asked President Obama to intervene and require an independent risk assessment.  

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