County Legislature Could Impose Moratorium on Algonquin Pipeline

By Janine Bowen

The Putnam County Legislature is considering imposing a moratorium on the proposed expansion of the Algonquin Pipeline.

The expansion by Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC, which is a subsidiary of Spectra Energy Partners LP, aims to add a 42-inch pipeline to three existing pipelines under the Hudson River. One compressor station that is slated to be affected is in the Town of Southeast, while other nearby stations including Stony Point in Rockland County and Oxford, CT, are also set to be part of the project.

Members of Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) spoke at Thursday night’s Health, Social, Educational, and Environmental committee meeting, requesting the moratorium on the expansion of the Southeast compressor station until the health and safety risks are fully evaluated.

“We’re not saying shut it down, we’re saying do your due diligence. Let the DEC know that you see that these numbers seem alarming to you,” said Susan Van Dolsen, of Westchester for Change and SAPE. “There’s no reason to hold your tongue on that.”

Members of SAPE were concerned about the emissions of volatile organic compounds, which are estimated to be at 15.8 tons per year according to numbers released by Spectra Energy. The group was concerned about the increased level of the potential carcinogenic emissions as well as the fact that emissions from certain components of the pipeline, including meter stations, are not disclosed.

According to a filing by Spectra Energy Partners, there are risks, including leaks and explosions, involved any time natural gas is transmitted, processed, and stored, but the company does not maintain insurance coverage against all potential risks and losses. This concerned residents, as well as members of the legislature, especially since the expansion will be so close to Indian Point.

“Of particular concern is the proximity of the project to a significant seismic zone and the Indian Point nuclear plant. This combination of factors presents a real risk of major disaster with profound, long-term impact on the region,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, in a press release submitted to the legislature by SAPE.

Members of SAPE submitted a resolution to the legislature, which would place a moratorium on the project until air emission tests, a health impact assessment, and risk assessment are completed. The board agreed to accept the resolution, and will vote on adoption during the full legislature meeting in May.

“To me, the whole thing makes me uncomfortable,” said Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, of District 1. “It’s the fracking gas; it’s the pipeline to serve New England going past Indian Point. I mean it’s a calamity of errors that could affect this whole area.”

Although a majority of legislators were in favor of placing a hold on the project until more information is obtained, Legislator Kevin Wright of District 9 believed that any attempts to stop the expansion would be an anti-business proposal and could potentially subject the county to litigation. Legislator Sam Olivario Jr., of District 2, however stated that he trusts the judgment of the public and his fellow legislatures more than he trusts Spectra Energy.

“Our first charge is, wholeheartedly, the health and safety of our residents. We do not know the full scale of danger that this expansion may produce for our residents,” Oliverio said. “The greatest sins in this country have been committed when government stood aside and let business make the decisions.”

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