Riverkeeper and a coalition of environmental groups filed a motion in federal court last week to halt construction of Spectra Energy’s pipeline project before natural gas begins flowing in closing proximity to the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan.
Coincidentally, the construction did temporarily stop on Friday after a tanker ran into a rock and spilled 45 gallons of diesel fuel on a site in Peekskill where the pipeline is being expanded, a mishap confirmed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“The fact that FERC would approve an analysis by a contractor hired by Spectra to approve installing a 42-inch diameter high pressure gas line next to a trouble-plagued nuclear plant that’s at the intersection of two earthquake fault lines really speaks for itself,” said Nancy Vann, a resident of Buchanan and president of the Safe Energy Rights Group. “There seems to be no limit to what FERC will do to add to the already extensive and unnecessary pipeline sprawl that increases its own funding. Twenty million people in the greater NYC area would be at risk!”
In its Motion for a Stay, nuclear and pipeline safety experts consulted by the coalition detail how an analysis done by Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission underestimated the blast radius of a pipeline explosion, and how such an explosion might engulf the entire nuclear plant property, located on the shorelines of the Hudson River.
“If the AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market) pipeline explodes, Indian Point will go with it,” said Jennifer McCave, staff attorney with Riverkeeper. “FERC has a legal responsibility to protect public safety by requiring an independent engineering analysis of the catastrophic safety risks of placing a pipeline next to a nuclear power plant.”
“Federal law requires a thorough look at the consequences to our community of the failure of a gas pipeline next to Indian Point,” said John Parker, Riverkeeper’s Director of Legal Programs. “In this case it simply was not done, and we intend to hold the project and the federal agency accountable for a failure that could have dramatic consequences for New York City and the Hudson Valley.”
Governor Cuomo and many other elected officials have called on FERC to stop the AIM project until an independent analysis of the risk to public safety is conducted. The AIM expansion is one of three planned pipeline projects that will distribute fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic region to New England and then to Canada for shipping overseas.
On Sunday, interfaith and community leaders gathered for a peaceful vigil in front of Cuomo’s Mount Kisco home to urge him to direct President Obama to halt construction of the pipeline. A simultaneous action took place at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany.
Spectra Energy anticipates beginning to distribute the gas sometime in early November.