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Danbury Man Concerned About Gas Pipeline's Compressor Station

Algonquin Pipeline expansion opponents at a Department of Environmental Conservation hearing in Southeast. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Algonquin Pipeline expansion supporters at a Department of Environmental Conservation hearing in Southeast. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Brewster school nurse Sheila Williams speaks at the Department of Environmental Conservation's hearing in Southeast. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Cortland Manor resident and union member Thomas Reilly speaks at the Department of Environmental Conservation's hearing in Southeast.

SOUTHEAST, N.Y. -- Skeptics and boosters alike of the proposed Algonquin pipeline expansion were heard at a public hearing on Wednesday in Southeast.

The hearing, at Henry H. Wells Middle School, was held by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Spectra Energy Partners, the applicant for the expansion, needs several approvals from the DEC, according to a department representative. They pertain to amending air permits in connection to upgrades of compressor stations, wetlands, stream disturbance and water-quality certification. Meanwhile, the  Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) is conducting an environmental review of the project, which is officially called the Algonquin Incremental Market Project (AIM Project). 

Spectra, according to the DEC, is proposing to replace 15.7 miles of 26-inch diameter pipeline with wider material that is 42 inches in  diameter. The pipeline, which crosses through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, would be supplemented with roughly 2.9 miles of new 42-inch diameter pipeline going across the Hudson River, according to the DEC. Existing compressor stations in Southeast and in the Rockland County community of Stony Point would be expanded as part of the project.

Critics voice a litany of fears pertaining to air quality from emissions released by the compressor station, impact on water quality and wetlands, proximity to the Indian Point nuclear power plant, impact on property values and the potential for illnesses such as cancer and asthma caused by materials released.

Sheila Williams, a nurse in the Brewster school district who said she is retiring in seven days, was vocal about the air-quality aspect.

“I worry for my students. I worry that we do not know what we are breathing now, and Spectra wants to expand the capacity of this pipeline by 300 percent and increase emissions of harmful compounds proven to cause health problems.”

Yorktown resident Paul Moskowitz, a scientist and engineer with a doctorate in nuclear physics, worried about emission of nuclear-decay products that would come from radon gas going through the pipeline. 

“These are known cancer-causing agents,” he said.

Some speakers called for the DEC to deny the permits. Having baseline air-quality monitoring and an independent health-impact assessment were also proposed by skeptical speakers.

The project has irked at least one resident across the Connecticut state line. Danbury's James Root, who lives near the Southeast compressor station, voiced concern about the risk of emissions.

A sizable contingent of pipeline supporters was also present. They included numbers members of the Labors' International Union of North America (LiUNA) who turned out wearing orange shirts bearing the union's name.

Supporters cited job creation, which would arise from the construction, and spoke assuredly of the quality of workers' labor for the project. Some also argued that the expansion would be an improvement over the existing pipeline.

“We need the work, people.” said Maryann McGuire, a Mamaroneck resident and LiUNA member. Addressing air-quality concern, McGuire, who has 22 years of experience, noted that she is still around after working on projects. 

Thomas Reilly, a LiUNA member and Cortlandt Manor resident, said he would feel safer knowing that it was replaced with what he described as a technologically advanced pipeline.

“This pipeline is there," said Yorktown's Joe Schneider, who is with Operating Engineers Local 137. "It’s in the ground now.” 

Schneider also praised past union work with Spectra.

Written comment is being accepted into February. More information about the project is on the DEC's website.

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