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Officials To NYS: Take A Second Look At Pipelines

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Now that New York state's Department of Environmental Conservation has officially banned hydrofracking, officials in Schoharie County would like the state to take a closer look at natural gas pipelines and compressor stations.

Although there won't be any fracking in New York, products of the process will move from Pennsylvania across the Empire State via pipelines which run through compressor stations. Natural gas, when transported through a pipeline, must be constantly pressurized at intervals of 40 to 100 miles.

Pipeline plans call for the Wright Compressor Station in Schoharie County to be joined by two others, being built in the town of Schoharie.  Richmondville Town Supervisor Richard Lape:  "The new ones are for the most part, carry the hydrofracking gas that's coming through our communities."

The two stations each will uniquely service two pipelines awaiting federal approval, the Constitution and one to be built by the Northeast Energy Direct Project. "We already have two, maybe more than two in our county. One of course at the Westfall Road site in the town of Wright, and a large compression station at Route 20 in the town of Calisle."

Lape, who chairs the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, dashed a letter off to Governor Andrew Cuomo in early June, asking that an “immediate freeze” be placed on new air and water quality permits for natural gas infrastructure projects, and that all research concerning the health effects of pipelines and compressor stations be reviewed.    "If you read, if you note the letter, I think the concerns are due to possible emissions into the atmosphere."

Studies of air in the vicinity of compressor stations have revealed alarmingly high numbers of certain chemicals and people living near the stations have experienced symptoms including nosebleeds and respiratory difficulties.

Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany David Carpenter, who participated as a researcher in the DEC's fracking study, calls compressor stations among the worst of all the fracking infrastructure.  "Our previous studies showed that some of the most serious air pollution came from the compressor stations. There needs to be a statewide analysis of the health of the population of New York from these compressor stations, and my recommendation is that this be done through the local health departments."

Carpenter notes a DEC study that included five states where fracking is allowed, showed more than 40 percent of air samples from compressor stations exceeded federal regulations for certain chemicals like methane, benzene and hydrogen sulfide.

The clock may be ticking, but Lape and other Schoharie County officials are hoping to see the “same steps and rationale” taken in assessing natural gas infrastructure as the state applied to fracking. "The building doesn't actually start - we've been updated at our town board meeting recently  - until the earliest would be this fall, but they don't even believe themselves it'll start until March of 2016."

Pipeline company officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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