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Neighbors Meet to Oppose Natural-Gas Pipeline Expansion

Rockland, Westchester and Putnam communities would be dug up as new, bigger pipes replaced the current line that runs from New Jersey to New England.

50 neighbors and officials packed a Peekskill living room July 15, 2014. Photo: Erik Lindberg
50 neighbors and officials packed a Peekskill living room July 15, 2014. Photo: Erik Lindberg

Residents of Bleloch Park met July 15 to discuss the proposed Algonquin Pipeline expansion through Cortlandt and Peekskill on its way to energy-needy New England.

"My neighborhood will be particularly impacted as Spectra will have to use our tiny streets to access the pipeline in that area," explained Courtney Williams, who hosted the event. "A small group of neighbors has rallied to halt the pipeline work until we can be assured that our health and safety are not in jeopardy, the city is prepared for the massive impact to its infrastructure and the necessary emergency response if something were to go wrong, and that our home values and ability to maintain homeowner's insurance isn't changed."

In fact the meeting wasn't so small. 

About 50 people—residents and elected officials—turned out in spite of the thunderstorms, Williams said—not only from Peekskill but also from Verplanck, Buchanan, elsewhere in Cortlandt and Yorktown.  

The proposed pipeline expansion would double the diameter of the compressed natural gas pipe that runs through Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties to New England. It would also add compression stations in Stony Point and Southeast.

Spectra filed its federal application for authorization to construct and operate the AIM Project Feb. 28 and was assigned docket number CP14-96-000. 

Williams said residents' top concerns were:

  • Proximity to Indian Point (less than 1500 ft)—close enough that a rupture could damage the plant or require evacuation of the personnel from it—not to mention the millions of people that live within 50 miles of the plant (which is 5% of the US population), and a precedent from the NRC of rerouting smaller pipelines to avoid decommissioned nuclear power plants in rural areas.
  • Infrastructure damage that the city and county need to be prepared for so we don't wind up with massive bills as has happened in other communities like Cochecton in Sullivan County.
  • Spectra's safety record
  • Property values—some homes that border the pipeline may be forced to grant easements to Spectra that prohibit building on the easement or planting certain vegetation; the massive disruption to the neighborhood would make it unwelcoming to home buyers; presence of gas infrastructure on the property may make it impossible to sell homes or get insurance
  • The proximity of the pipeline to the Buchanan-Verplank Elementary school (450ft) considering that an elementary school in Texas was shut down due to risk from an aging Spectra pipeline
  • The environmental impact on Dickie Brook and its wetlands as well as portions of Blue Mountain Reservation (which the pipeline would pass through)
  • Release of radon, lead, polonium, and other carcinogenic compounds trapped in the pipeline when the old pipeline is removed
  • Poor air quality due to release of methane, VOCs, and other compounds from the metering station on Rt 9A and the compressor stations in Stony Point and Southeast 
  • Industrial overload: the neighborhood already has Indian Point, the BASF chemical plant, and the Wheelabrator incinerator within a mile.

Susan Van Dolsen from SAPE (Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion) was present with petitions and to provide information for residents on topics including easements and the impact of natural gas infrastructure on a homeowner's ability to get mortgages and homeowner's insurance, Williams said.

Neighbors signed letters to be sent to all the permitting agencies involved in the approval process for the pipeline expansion, including FERC, DEP, DEC, NY Secretary of State, EPA, and Army Corp of Engineers. 

Williams said the neighborhood's next steps are to keep pressuring Westchester county lawmakers to pass the bill calling for a moratorium on the project, following Putnam County's lead, reaching out to the permitting agencies and elected officials to voice concerns, and continuing to spread the word about the project.

"We also intend to be out in force when Spectra goes before the Peekskill Common Council on August 4th, and when the FERC holds its meeting in Cortlandt on September 11th," she said. "We want to make sure our community's health, safety, and financial well-being are protected before this project is allowed to proceed."

You can sign SAPE's petition here. You may submit comments and follow the project at www.FERC.gov 

NancyV July 16, 2014 at 09:31 PM
Ironic that the FERC meeting will be held on September 11th. Not an auspicious day for many of us.
Evan Bray July 17, 2014 at 08:23 AM
These people were obviously not offered one miiiiiilllllion dollars to build fields next to a pigging station to clean out the pipeline all for only an acre of parkland and use of a dozen or two acres for a few years while they build this sucker. Just talk to Yorktown supervisor Grace or "extreme conservative" (how fellow GOP described him this week in a LoHud article about his state senate primary opponent being "pro-abortion" [ed. note: hahahahahahaha]) councilman Murphy. We don't need your stinking "science." What do we want? Ball fields! When do we want them? All the time. Seriously, it's how we answer difficult questions around these parts. Holland Club demo performed by the Highway Dept has a DEC violation for a shoddy clean up? Build a ball field on it. How do you think we consistently turnout elite lacrosse and field hockey teams competing on the state level.
NancyV July 18, 2014 at 02:13 PM
Thanks for sharing information about this important issue Courtney. I hope that a different route will be considered. This would be too dangerous and too expensive for Peekskill and Cortlandt. Our towns are likely to be stuck with a big bill for infrastructure repairs and for upgrading the emergency services (particularly the fire departments) which are not sufficient to deal with this expansion. Our taxes could wind up higher and this area wouldn't get any benefits from the gas. It's all going to New England.

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