NY Elected Officials Ask FERC For AIM Project Rehearing

Apr 6, 2015

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (center); Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker (right) and Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina (left)
Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

New York’s two U.S. senators and a Hudson Valley congresswoman have penned a letter to a federal agency, asking for a rehearing concerning a pipeline expansion project. Local elected officials have been filing similar letters.

Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand along with Congresswoman Nita Lowey have written to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking it to rehear its March 3 decision to conditionally approve Spectra Energy’s proposed Algonquin Incremental Market, or AIM, Project. The Democrats say the rehearing request is in light of significant health, safety, and environmental concerns voiced by their constituents. This comes as a number of local elected officials also filed with FERC for a rehearing or voiced their support for a rehearing. Democratic Assemblywoman Sandy Galef is one. Her district includes the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County.

“I’ve represented the nuclear plant all the time when I’ve been in office, so I am very concerned about the safety there,” says Galef. “And to add any other complication of anything that could be unsafe, I think it’s just irresponsible.”

In addition to calling for a rehearing, Galef is calling for an independent safety expert, or group of such experts.

“The problem is you have so many different agencies working at that and they all look at it from their own perspective,” Galef says. “I think we need somebody to look at the total project. And that’s why I believe an independent panel of real experts in many fields getting together could make a real difference in this project. And I hope it’s turned down at the end of the day.”

Houston-based Spectra Energy operates the more than 1,000-mile pipeline from New Jersey to Boston. Much of the 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. Marylee Hanley is spokeswoman for Spectra Energy.

“We understand that several parties have filed with FERC for a request for rehearing,” says Hanley. “We are in the process of reviewing those requests and evaluating how best to proceed before FERC.”

Patricia Kakridas is spokeswoman for Indian Point parent Entergy Nuclear.

“We obviously take no position on the pipeline itself. But because a portion of this pipeline comes across our property we worked with the pipeline owners to add enhanced protective measures. And we then commissioned an independent expert analysis,” says Kakridas. “So an independent state expert came in and conducted this analysis of the potential impacts which could result from a pipeline failure and that analysis determined that the pipeline poses no increased risk to safety at the plant. And experts at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission then conducted their own analysis and reached the same conclusion.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

She says some of the protective measures include increasing thickness of the pipe and burying the pipe deeper. Theresa Knickerbocker is mayor of Buchanan, home of Indian Point. She says she has a few concerns about the AIM project.

“There’s a couple of significant, of course, the schoolchildren within 450 feet if there’s a catastrophic event. There’s been just, I don’t think any thought has really been given to that. And that’s a huge concern, of course, always to protect our children,” says Knickerbocker. “But, of course, Indian Point. We want that to continue to operate safely. By putting in potential things like that close to Indian Point, I just think you’re looking for trouble.”

She refers to the Buchanan Verplanck Elementary School in the village.  Knickerbocker says she is working with Cortlandt as part of the intervener process. Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi April 2 announced she had filed a rehearing request with FERC.

“We’re not against natural gas, but this big expansion is too impactful to our area,” Puglisi says.

Her call for a rehearing came alongside several other elected officials, including Galef and members of environmental and citizen groups. Puglisi says she has been battling against the AIM project for two years.

“I’ve been supervisor for 24 years. We’ve fought and we’ve championed other obstacles in our community,” says Puglisi. “This one we are realistic, it’s an uphill battle, it’s David vs. Goliath. But we do fight on and we stand up for our citizens.”

Again, Spectra’s Hanley.

“Spectra Energy and/or the Algonquin system has been operating the Algonquin system in the region for more than 60 years providing clean, reliable, safe, domestic natural gas which helps provide natural gas safely to homeowners and businesses to heat their homes,” Hanley says.

A FERC spokesman did not respond in time for this broadcast. April 3 was the deadline to submit any contentions with the March 3 FERC order, and FERC has 30 days to respond.