Gas and oil companies want to build pipelines, compressor stations, and other fossil fuel transport infrastructure to lock us into fossil fuels for the foreseeable future because they will need to make a return on their mammoth investment. This is going in the wrong direction. Instead we need to put our money into building an infrastructure for clean, safe, affordable, renewable energy.
The Governor and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) made the right decision when they listened to the science and banned fracking. Now we ask that they apply the same criteria to assessing the dangers of building a gas and oil infrastructure that they did to assessing the dangers of fracking a well. We are confident that once they do, they will come to the conclusion that gas and oil infrastructure is not safe for New York and New Yorkers.
Larger and larger quantifies of oil and gas is now moving through our state. There are over 40 proposed or approved gas infrastructure projects including pipelines, compressor stations and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage facilities in New York State. Much of the infrastructure that has been built and is proposed goes through very populated areas.
Crude Oil Transport
The oil companies have set up a virtual oil pipeline and are transporting highly volatile crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, Canada and other places to the Port of Albany through New York State via rail, barge and ship, where it is destined for East coast refineries. It is estimated that the Port of Albany now receives up to 400,000 barrels of Bakken oil daily. The oil then goes into giant storage tanks before being loaded onto barges that make daily trips to refineries down the Hudson. It travels through Greene, Ulster, Orange and Rockland Counties and threatens every community along its route with the risk of spills, fires and explosions.
In 2012, a 600-foot oceangoing oil tanker carrying 279,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil ran aground on its maiden voyage from the Port of Albany down the Hudson River, just 12 miles from the port. The ship’s outer hull was breached but a second hull prevented a spill. There was little notice of the incident at the time.
While this accident did not result in an oil spill in the Hudson, it is only a matter of time before the Hudson has its first accident or spill and when that happens, there is tremendous uncertainty about how authorities will respond to it.
A catastrophic accident like the one that occurred on July 6, 2013 in Lac-Mégantic Quebec, is frightenly high. There a train hauling more than 70 cars filled with volatile crude oil derailed, and the ensuing fire sent a fireball into the sky that destroyed 30 buildings and killed 47 people. A settlement in the case has been handed down that comes nowhere close to compensating the community for their horrific loses.
Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC is planning a bidirectional pipeline that will run 178 miles down the NY State Thruway Right of Way to New Jersey Refineries. It will go through Hudson, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Peekskill, White Plains, Yonkers and end in Linden, NJ. For a visual of this and other pipelines across the U.S., click here.
There is no benefit to the towns in NY or NJ, only risk, and many towns in New York and New Jersey are being proactive and passing resolutions against it.
These include the Town and Village of New Paltz, City of Kingston, Marbletown, Woodstock, Rochester, Rhinebeck as well as over 20 townships in New Jersey. Several more towns in Ulster County are considering similar resolutions including Esopus and Plattekill." In December 2014, the New Jersey State Assembly passed a resolution to oppose the pipeline on the basis of safety concerns for the over 3 million New Jerseyans whose drinking water lies within the twisting route it would take through seven Garden State Counties.
The Big Picture
By letting New York become a conduit for Bakken crude oil, we become complicit in the destruction of western North Dakota where it is drilled and in all of the communities East and West through which the oil is travelling.
Oil reserves are down, so more and more rigs must be drilled to meet production. That means that more and more of North Dakota’s landscape is being ruined.
Despite the fossil fuel boom that has brought money to North Dakota, a majority of the people in North Dakota are fed up with the oil boom way of life - the “man camps”, unsafe communities, traffic, outrageous rental rates, crime and what its done to their wide open spaces.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must approve all pipelines that go through multiple states; HOWEVER, pipelines that go through New York must also obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification, which is required under the Federal 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 must also be approved by the NYDEC.
Below is a list of some of the most significant infrastructure projects that are currently being proposed in New York.
The proposed Constitution Pipeline is a 124-mile federal transmission pipeline that would extend from northern Pennsylvania into New York, and go through Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego, and Schoharie counties, terminating near Albany. In New York State alone, it would cross 20 aquifers, 4 public water supply watersheds, and 207 water bodies, with impacts on 75 acres of wetlands. FERC has already approved it, but it can’t be built unless the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) grants it a Section 401 Water Quality Certification. The NYDEC is now accepting comments as part of their review of the pipeline. Comments can be sent to the NYDEC until February 27, 2015.
Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project from Spectra Energy
The AIM pipeline is planned to go through New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It has not yet been approved by FERC but in it also needs a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the NYDEC to move forward. In addition, the project must get air permits from the NYDEC for two 30,000 horsepower compressor stations that it proposes to expand in Brewster and Stonypoint. Compressor stations are located approximately every 40 to 100 miles along the routes of pipelines to keep gas in a highly pressurized state so that it can travel. The comment deadline is February 27, 2015.
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. For more on Seneca Lake LPG Storage, click here.
Why transporting gas and oil through New York State is bad for our health and the environment
Transporting gas and oil through our state, either by road, barge, rail or through a massive infrastructure of pipelines, compressor stations and storage facilities poses many of the same risks to health and the environment as drilling for fracked gas and the spills and explosions that can result from oil transport can be catastrophic.
Natural gas is extremely toxic and when it leaks into the air, ground or water along the transport route it, the results are the same as when it leaks from a wellpad. Gas is released either through planned operations known as blowdowns, so maintenance work can be done, or accidently. Air around compressor stations, is especially toxic. In the recent Coming Clean Study, in which Catskill Mountainkeeper participated, the conclusion was that "air concentrations of potentially dangerous compounds and chemical mixtures are frequently present at oil and gas production sites."
Since the primary component of natural gas is methane, a very potent greenhouse gas – the release also causes climate change. (Methane is 86 times more potent than carbon over the first 20 years)
The Network for Oil & Gas Accountability and Protection (NEOGAP) has put together a "List of the Harmed", recounting real life experiences of people whose health has been affected by contact with fracked gas. Read about people from all over the country who live near fracking infrastructure, such as compressor stations in PA, who now suffer from headaches, sore throats, sinus congestion, rashes, blisters, lesions, respiratory distress, hearing difficulties and more.
For more on the health risks of fracking please go to the COMPENDIUM OF SCIENTIFIC, MEDICAL AND MEDIA FINDINGS DEMONSTRATING RISKS AND HARMS OF FRACKING, a fully referenced compilation of health studies compiled by Catskill Mountainkeeper and Concerned Health professionals.
When Dr. Howard A. Zucker, acting New York State Health Commissioner, presented his reasons for banning fracking in New York State, he said that there were “significant public health risks” and that based on scientific studies there are concerns about water contamination and air pollution. He said it boiled down to a simple question: “Would he want his family to live in a community where fracking was taking place?” We believe that his analysis must be expanded. The question that now needs to be asked is, “Would he want his family to live in a community where there is fracking infrastructure or oil transport?” The answer should be ‘No' to both questions.
Recent Gas and Oil Incidents, Spills and Explosions
Here are some recent incidents, accidents and explosions as a result of gas and oil transport.
Hancock Compressor Station Evacuation
Homeowners on Hungry Hills were forced to evacuate their homes when crews did a planned release of natural gas on a 9-mile section of the Millennium pipeline that connects to the Hancock compressor station. The release of gas, also know as a blowdown, was done as part of regular maintenance.
The stated reason for the evacuation was to protect the residents from the damaging high decibel levels that are caused when gas is released through a valve. Acute and chronic exposure to high levels of noise is associated with serious health risks, including hearing damage and loss, sleep disturbance, stress, reduced school and work performance, headaches, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems.
The residents were also at risk from the toxic chemicals that were in the released gas including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and cancer-causing volatile organic compounds and our atmosphere was at risk from the release of large quantifies of methane, a powerful potent greenhouse gas.
Windsor Compressor Station Fire
A fire at a Williams Company owned-operated compressor station in West Windsor, NY in January 2014 marked the 7th time in 2 years that there was a major accident at one of William’s facilities. The Windsor compressor station is connected to the brand-new Millennium pipeline.
A more serious explosion occurred at a Williams’ compressor station in New Jersey in May 30, 2013 where thirteen people were injured.
On January 17, 2015, the Yellowstone River suffered its second sizable oil spill in four years when more than 50,000 gallons of oil from the Bakken shale fields of Montana and North Dakota spilled into the River. Some oil from the spill got into a water supply intake along the river that serves about 6,000 people in Glendive and a sample showed elevated levels of volatile organic compounds, predominantly benzene. Water is now being trucked into this community. The cleanup is hampered because the river is frozen.
The location of this spill was in a relatively unpopulated area. If something similar happened to the oil pipeline that is planned for the banks of the Hudson, the results could be disastrous.