PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – On Saturday, Oct. 25, a coalition of citizens groups held a rally in Peekskill's Pugsley Park to call attention to the proposed Algonquin pipeline expansion that would cut through Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties on its route from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.
Fearing loss of property to eminent domain and environmental impacts, more than 100 people gathered at the rally hosted by Reynolds Hills, Concerned Peekskill Residents, Keep Yorktown Safe and Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion. They were opposing Spectra's proposed 42-inch diameter high-pressure natural gas pipeline and infrastructure through the Hudson Valley.
Many of the hardest hit towns were represented, with elected officials from Peekskill, Yorktown, North Salem, and Cortlandt. Westchester legislators Mary Jane Shimsky and Catherine Borgia sent statements and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef spoke as well.
Also present were candidates opposing the project, which has become a campaign issue in local elections. Justin Wagner, who is running for the state Senate, has been instrumental in bringing this project to the public's attention, going so far as to testify to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at September's hearing in Cortlandt. Wagner spoke to the crowd for several minutes, drawing cheers when he promised, upon getting to Albany, to block any attempt to appropriate park land for the pipeline. Chris Day, running for Congress against Nita Lowey, also expressed his opposition to the pipeline given the new route it will take through Cortlandt and the massive increase in capacity.
Residents are up in arms over planned pigging stations (for removal of radioactive hazardous waste) in residential areas of Buchanan, Yorktown and Mahopac/Somers. They also are concerned about expanded compressor stations (which burn off gas) in Stony Point and Brewster, given that Spectra has refused to finance or conduct independent health impact assessments.
Others are worried that the new pipeline route, 1,500 feet from Indian Point and only 450 feet from Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School, poses an unknown risk because Spectra refuses to finance or conduct an independent risk assessment.
Courtney Williams of Peekskill, whose daughter will attend Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary, said, "We know that at a distance of only 450 feet, a rupture of the pipeline would mean a 100 percent fatality rate for anyone outdoors--that's the kids on the playground at (Buchanan-Verplanck). What we don't know is what the likelihood of such a catastrophe is because Spectra won't actually tell us anything."
FERC could issue a permit for this project as soon as December 2014 and construction could take place in 2015 and 2016. Many of the speakers Saturday called for FERC to issue a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, offer a new public comment period and demand independent health and safety assessments of the project before making a decision on the project. Despite letters from more than 30 elected officials, including Congresswoman Nita Lowey, calling for a delay to address concerns, FERC has refused to delay.
"Those of us fighting this project have been called "special interests" and "NIMBY complainers" by others. We don't want this in our backyard. What people fail to realize is that there is already a nuclear power plant in our backyard! This is a foolish place for a massive transmission pipeline," Williams said. Peekskill resident Nancy Vann said, “This area already has more than its share of environmental burdens. We don’t need more of them; particularly not a mega-pipeline that won’t bring any benefits to our communities but will put us all at risk.”
SAPE is urging residents to call their elected officials in Congress to express concern about the Spectra AIM gas pipeline and infrastructure expansion. The group is asking elected officials to stand up for their constituents and insist that all permitting agencies perform independent risk assessments, a health impact assessment and baseline testing immediately.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.