The Northern Westchester Examiner

Peekskill Council Irked by Police Protection for Pipeline

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Peekskill Common Council members were unhappy to learn that city cops were hired by Spectra Entergy to provide police protection during the construction of an expanded gas pipeline in the area.

What particularly bothered some members was the fact the Council opposed the controversial project, which only runs for about a quarter-mile in Peekskill.

“The Council passed a resolution that we don’t want this pipeline coming through our city, yet Peekskill officers were on Cortlandt property protecting Spectra from our citizens,” Councilwoman Kathy Talbot remarked during a work session last week. “It’s an ill-conceived project and now we have our staff down there on Cortlandt property. I can’t justify that to anyone. I can’t justify that to myself.”

Talbot was making reference to a November 17 incident on Reynolds Hills in Buchanan, just over the Peekskill border, where resident Nancy Vann temporarily halted construction of the pipeline by refusing to budge from a tree on her property within 300 feet of the activity.

A week earlier, nine members of a coalition called Resist AIM were peacefully arrested in Montrose for blocking two ware yard driveways used by workers for Spectra.

Peekskill Police Chief Eric Johansen explained city police officers were hired by Spectra when they are off duty. The officers are paid overtime rates, and the city is reimbursed for all costs incurred, plus an administrative fee, according to Johansen.

“This is something we have been doing for a number of years. It’s pretty common in the police profession,” Johansen said in reference to police being present at construction sites. “We’re not taking sides. We’re there for traffic control, crowd control, crime prevention and to maintain a safety zone. If we don’t do it then somebody else will do it. I don’t feel comfortable having State Police or Westchester County Police coming in doing our police work.”

Mayor Frank Catalina said the police were providing a level of security as they would during any special event in the city, but acknowledged the Council was the last to know about their involvement with the pipeline.

“I don’t have a problem with it, but we should have been notified about it,” he said.

Councilwoman Vivian McKenzie maintained have Peekskill Police protect Spectra sends the wrong message to residents.

“The Council had no idea this was taking place and I think that was kind of wrong. It looks like the City of Peekskill is supporting the pipeline,” she said. “This (project) is huge and for people to ask us questions and we’re looking dumbfounded makes us look in a bad light.”

In October, Spectra Energy began building a high-pressure 42-inch diameter pipeline throughout the area. A 26-inch pipeline currently runs through the region. For several years, local elected officials and residents lobbied against the project but ultimately were unable to convince the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), whose authority supersedes home rule.

“I think it was a done deal from the beginning,” Catalina said. “There’s nothing the city could do to stop this.”

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