The fight to prevent NY from becoming a massive distribution center for fossil fuels
The gas companies are expanding their infrastructure in New York and all across the U.S. at an unprecedented rate. There are over 40 proposed or approved gas infrastructure projects including pipelines, compressor stations and an offshore Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage facility across New York State alone, with several in New York City and its suburbs.
What the gas companies are trying to do
Lock the U.S. into a fossil fuel future – if we continue to spend billions on interstate pipelines, compressor stations and natural gas storage facilities we will need to continue using fossil fuels for many years to come to pay for this immense infrastructure investment.
- Set up the infrastructure to ship gas overseas - Much of the gas and oil that is going and will go through our state is destined for ports overseas, where the gas companies can not only get more money for it but by decreasing the supply in the U.S. they can increase prices here at home. Permits to allow this export have already been requested.
Forget the mantra of the gas companies that they need to increase production to make the U.S. energy independent – they are really working to increase their markets and our dependency on them at the expense of the health of Americans and our environment.
Infrastructure in New York
Currently in New York there are seven major pipelines (Blue Stone, Iroquois, Mark Connector, Millennium Phase I, Rockaway, Spectra and Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project) with more coming, a gas storage facility at Seneca Lake, multiple compressor stations including ones in our area in Hancock, Windsor and Minisink that are in various stages of the approval process.
Pipelines & Compressor Stations
Thousands of miles of gas pipelines now traverse New York State and many more are planned. Gas must be in a highly pressurized state to travel through pipelines and a compressor station is located every 40 to 100 miles to repressurize it as it travels.
Scientific studies, including the Coming Clean Study in which Catskill Mountainkeeper participated, have confirmed "air concentrations of potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures are frequently present at oil and gas production sites." Air around compressor stations can include formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and cancer-causing volatile organic compounds. During regular maintenance for pipelines around compressor stations, natural gas (whose prime component is methane, a potent greenhouse gas) is released into the atmosphere.
Lisa Jackson, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said in relationship to fracking infrastructure that there are going to be huge smog problems where there never were before. High levels of ozone (smog) have been shown to have a direct correlation to an increase in asthma and other respiratory diseases. In Pennsylvania gas companies have constructed over 450 compressor stations in five years.
Proposed Fracked Gas Pipeline Projects
Spectra Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline Expansion Project
The project runs through densely populated communities in Rockland, Putnam and Westchester counties in New York and poses significant safety hazards including, water pollution, air pollution and the resultant health hazards. It proposes to increase the size of its two huge compressor stations at Brewster and Stonypoint, which are already emitting large quantities of methane, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and Volatile Organic Compounds, including benzene, toluene and many others, which have been linked to respiratory problems, headaches, neurological and cardiovascular problems and several types of cancer. In order to go forward it needs the NYDEC to grant them a Section 401 Water Quality Certification and air permits for the expansion of their two compressor stations. The comment deadline is February 27, 2015
The Dominion Pipeline would run through central New York and over the Iroquois, cutting through Cooperstown. Unlike other pipeline projects, the plan is to use an existing old pipeline and add three new compressor stations to it. This is of great concern because some of the sections of the existing pipeline are over 50 years old and it is questionable whether they will be able to stand up to the high pressure under which gas will need to travel.
Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline
The Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline is proposed to be built by Kinder Morgan, parallel to the Constitution pipeline. It would bring gas from Pennsylvania, through New York and New England, to Canadian liquid natural gas facilities built by the Pieridae Energy Co, so that it can be shipped overseas where the gas companies can get higher prices. This is a case where Kinder Morgan, a private company is asking FERC to grant the right of eminent domain to take people’s land so that they can make a higher corporate profit. FERC is supposed to make decisions based on public need, but there is no way that public need can be construed as a private company shipping gas overseas to make more money.
Unnamed pipeline to bring gas into MA
Plans are being considered for a new pipeline to run up to the Iroquois that would bring gas to MA. This is in the preliminary stages.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Export Terminals
In order to ship gas overseas it must first be turned into a liquid which reduces its volume by about 600 times. This is done by cooling it to -260° Fahrenheit. When it reaches its destination, it is warmed back into its original gaseous state so that it can be used. In liquid form gas is particularly dangerous and possibly disastrous. If it escapes by accident onto land or into water, it very quickly turns back to its gaseous form when it mixes with air and burns if ignited.
There is currently a bill in Congress to fast track the approval of Liquid Natural Gas Storage Facilities.
Dominion Cove LNG Facility
Dominion’s Cove Point facility at the mouth of the Chesapeake River in Maryland will be the first LNG export terminal slated for the East Coast. It will be used to transport the fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania.
Seneca Lake Liquefied Petroleum Gas Storage
FERC has approved a project by Houston based Crestwood Midstream to build a facility to store highly pressurize natural gas (methane) and liquefied petroleum gases (butane and propane, also known as LPG) in abandoned salt caverns near Seneca Lake, NY. The community is furiously fighting the project because unlined salt caverns are dangerous vessels for the storage of flammable gases that can leak through subterranean fissures and fractures and cause deadly explosions.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is an independent government agency that regulates the country’s natural gas industry, hydroelectric projects, oil pipelines and wholesale rates for electricity. It is responsible for reviewing proposals to build interstate natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.
FERC’s job is to review each infrastructure application to make sure it meets the minimum criteria for approval, but it has a history of being much more concerned with free market enterprise than consumer concerns. It has rarely if ever turned down an infrastructure project. FERC’s seeming indifference to consumer and environmental concerns is a prime example of how state and federal regulatory agencies are just not keeping up with the task of protecting us from the harms of this massive build out by the gas and oil industry.
Litigation is one of the ways to fight FERC. A recent successful suit brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in June 2014 resulted in a positive ruling. The justices said that FERC had failed to provide a meaningful analysis of the cumulative impact of the Northeast project by not considering 3 other connected & interdependent projects, the 300 Line Project, the Northeast Supply Diversification Project, the MPP Project.
HOWEVER, pipelines that go through New York must also obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification, which is required under the Clean Water Act. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) issues these after a review. In addition, all compressor stations in New York must obtain an air permit that also must be approved by the NYDEC.
If the build out of this gas infrastructure is allowed to go forward unchecked, we are headed for a country that is locked into fossil fuels for the foreseeable future and will suffer the potentially disastrous environmental, health, economic and social impacts of fossil fuel distribution. Catskill Mountainkeeper is fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen.