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Pipeline Foes Urge Westchester Legislators To Take Back Their 'Power'

Foes of the Algonquin gas pipeline project have accused County Executive Rob Astorino of selling out Westchester for allowing the expansion to cross parkland in Peekskill. Photo Credit: Susan Van Dolsen/Facebook
A work site for Spectra Energy's gas pipeline project in comes within yards of private homes near the Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill. Photo Credit: Mey Marple
Land is cleared in Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill for Spectra Energy's pipeline project. Photo Credit: Mey Marple
Land was cleared in the Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill for Spectra Energy's gas pipeline project. Photo Credit: Mey Marple
Spectra Energy's gas pipeline project passes directly behind private homes in Peekskill near the Blue Mountain Reservation. Photo Credit: Mey Marple

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Foes of Spectra Energy’s gas pipeline project, distraught over what they called the “destruction” of parkland, appealed to Westchester lawmakers to take back their “power.”

About 20 residents appeared before the Board of Legislators in White Plains last week to urge it to refuse to renew the county’s agreement with the Texas-based company.

The focus of their appeal was Blue Mountain Reservation, a 1,538-acre park in Peekskill.

Peekskill resident Nancy Vann, in urging legislators to "take your power back," alluded to what she called a “political maneuver” by County Executive Rob Astorino to shut lawmakers out of negotiations with Spectra.

Spectra is replacing its 26-inch pipeline with a 42-inch one that will carry natural gas to a terminal point in Boston, where, foes say, “much of the gas is destined to be shipped overseas.”

Pipeline opponents say that when Astorino issued a license to Spectra to expand the Algonquin pipeline through Blue Mountain, he sidestepped “the more conventional and transparent” parkland alienation process, which would have included a vote by county legislators.

They asked the board not to renew Spectra’s lease when it expires on Oct. 1.

Astorino assistant TJ McCormack said Thursday that the county executive "appreciates all viewpoints, but the bottom line on this is clear: The existing pipeline is antiquated and it needs updating."

"This is a critical infrastructure repair project overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not Westchester County, and it will make the existing natural gas line safer and more efficient for the increasing number of Westchester families who heat their homes with natural gas," McCormack said.

Spectra, meanwhile, responded by saying that the Algonquin Incremental Market project "meets or exceeds federal safety standards and regulations."

Marylee Hanley, its director of stakeholder outreach, said Wednesday that "Algonquin Gas Transmission respects the right of individuals to express their positions and encourages them to participate in the regulatory process, but they need to realize that the system "provides a vital source of reliable, affordable energy for the region's homes, hospitals, businesses and schools."

"Low energy prices help everyone, particularly those least able to pay their bills -- people making the tougher decisions about energy, food, and clothing for their families," Hanley said.

Among the speakers Monday were Terry Kardos, a biologist, and Jon Fein, who both frequent the park.

Kardos and Fein described the project’s affect on wildlife and the environment while Croton resident Paola DalleCarbonare displayed photographs of “ravaged” areas.

Local lawmakers have the power to resist industry pressures, Wappingers resident Charles Davenport told them.

Davenport cited the successful squashing of projects such as Port Ambrose, a $600 million proposal to build a liquefied natural gas terminal 18 miles off the coast of New York’s Long Beach.

Westchester resident Susan Van Dolsen invited legislators to “visit Blue Mountain and witness the devastation for yourselves."

"You are the stewards of the park," she said.

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