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Why Not the Pipeline?

Top 10 reasons why the Spectra Pipeline is a terrible idea: 1) It's a danger to local residents. 2) Spectra has a history of safety issues. 3) Pipeline regulation and oversight are sorely inadequate. 4) We don’t need more gas, demand is flat (see p27-28). 5) The gas is intended for export. 6) Projected supplies are limited.  Shale gas is a bubble. 7) It increases the demand to frack. 8) Gas will worsen, not improve our air quality. 9) It could increase our risk from Radon. 10) It's the wrong direction. Our future is renewable.

Need more info? Check out the links on the sidebar at right, or click here. What can you do? Click on Action Alerts for what's needed right now.

Multiple New Pipeline Groups Form

How urgent is the fight against pipelines? It may be demonstrated by the flurry of opposition groups coming together to fight pipelines all over New York State: OWS has been organizing a near-constant presence at the Spectra site, as well as marches, rallies, teach-ins and leafletting. Stay in touch at Occupy the Pipeline or attend weekly meetings 7pm Wednesday nights at the Brecht Forum. Check in through twitter @SpeakOWS or simply put in the hashtag #SpectraShowdown.

Opponents to the Gateway pipeline have formed CARP (Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline). Check in with them on the web or Facebook. Upcoming actions are planned for Labor Day weekend.

Multiple fracktivist groups are fighting the Williams pipeline in upstate New York, and a new facebook group, Stop the Constitution Pipeline posts news, updates, and alerts.

Huff Post Calls Out Bloomberg

Huffington Post writer, Eileen Stukane, points out something we've been noticing too, Mayor Bloomberg's conflicting initiatives: his bans on super-sized sodas, trans fats and ciggies seem rather in conflict with his promotion of pipelines that will bring radon to apartment kitchens. Add all the bike lanes you want, dude, but if people get lung cancer they'll be unlikely to take advantage of them, no?Eileen's complete story below and here.

NYC's Odd Sense of Good Health: No Big Sodas But Radioactive Kitchens

For his desired ban on the sale of 32-ounce sugar-sweetened beverages in restaurants, delis, sports arenas, movie theaters and food carts, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been praised by a hierarchy of health experts, among them, the president and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale, even former U.S. President William Clinton and former NYC Mayor Edward Koch have joined in the applause. Mayor Bloomberg is being commended for the steps he is taking to improve the health of all New York City residents.

While there is no doubt that New Yorkers, like the rest of the U.S. population, are drinking and eating too many highly caloric foods, and that obesity is a public health crisis, there is a more serious health concern coming our way that does not seem to bother Mayor Bloomberg. He wants big soda out of our lives, but Mayor Bloomberg wants to put in our lives, cancer-causing radon. It is due to arrive in the high-pressure natural gas that the Spectra Pipeline will be delivering to New York City very soon. Mayor Bloomberg supports the Spectra Pipeline so fully that he and the Public Service Commission urged commissioners toexpedite a decision in their May session, rather than adhere to a review scheduled for June.

The commissioners did what was asked of them and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)approved the pipeline's construction on May 21st.

A 30-inch gas pipeline will bring natural gas, hydrofracked from the Marcellus Shale, which according to a study conducted by Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, an expert in radioactive waste management, can contain radon concentrations 70 times above average.

The gas will arrive at a vault at the Gansevoort Peninsula near the HighLine and next door to the future Whitney Museum in the West Village. From there, the radon-containing natural gas will go through a planned pipeline along Tenth Avenue to Con Edison's distribution terminal at West 15th Street. Sane Energy Project, a volunteer organization, is working hard to alert all New Yorkers who have gas stoves that if the Spectra Pipeline continues to move ahead as Mayor Bloomberg wants, they will be radioactivating their kitchens when they try to scramble an egg. Turn on a burner and radon, the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and the second leading cause among smokers, will be emitted for your inhalation. According to the EPA, radon causes 21,000 deaths from lung cancer yearly.

Radon is a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas created naturally during the radioactive decay of uranium, thorium and radium. Radon itself is only destroyed through radioactive decay, which happens in a half-lifeof 3.8 days.

New Yorkers currently receive natural gas from the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast gas has up to 30 times less radioactivity in its radon than gas from the Marcellus Shale. Not only that, it takes 6 to 8 days for the gas to travel through pipelines from the Gulf Coast area to New York City. By then, radon's most dangerous radioactivity has diminished considerably. The more highly radioactive Marcellus Shale gas will only take 10 to 15 hours to reach New York City -- not nearly enough time for decay.

On May 11th the Sierra Club, along with NoGasPipeline and the NJ Food and Water Watch filed a statement with FERC that included Dr. Resnikoff's study and asked for FERC to investigate the effects of indoor radon levels from hydrofracked Marcellus Shale before deciding on the pipeline. No investigation occurred. As already mentioned, on Monday, May 21st, with encouragement from Mayor Bloomberg, FERC approved the Spectra Pipeline. Is Mayor Bloomberg a health-conscious Mayor? Big soda versus cancer-causing radon in our kitchens... you be the judge!

HRPT Hearing, Thursday, May 31, 7pm:

VERY important meeting that could affect the Spectra Easement: The  HRPT Hearing will discuss proposed changes to the Hudson River Park Act, including changes to time limits of easements and the potential addition of a stadium or residential development within the Park. 7pm, St. Paul’s Chapel, 209 Broadway, between Fulton St. and Vesey St. (stay tuned HRPT has a habit of changing their meeting locations last minute) (all trains to Fulton stop).  More info here.

Pipeline Approved by FERC

FERC has approved the Spectra Pipeline 3 weeks ahead of the earliest anticipated date, apparently reacting to requests for expedited approval from Con Ed, PSC and the Mayor's OfficeStay tuned for next steps, we'll update you shortly. Excerpts from the 68-page document, for your reading displeasure: May 21, 2012,  Certificates of public convenience and necessity are issued to Texas Eastern and to Algonquin, authorizing the construction and operation of the NJ-NY Project facilities.

Texas Eastern estimates the cost of its portion of the NJ-NY Project to be $789,493,884. Algonquin estimates that the cost of its portion of the project will be $67,524,524. Texas Eastern proposes to charge incremental recourse rates for firm and interruptible transportation service to recover the costs associated with the construction of the proposed facilities as well as the leased capacity.

in deciding whether to authorize major new natural gas transportation facilities, the Commission balances public benefits against potential adverse consequences. Opponents question the need for the project. They contend that the project is being put forth to create future demand for gas rather than to fulfill existing demand . . . or that any increase in demand can and should be met by relying on renewable sources of energy and by efforts to conserve energy. . . we conclude that these cannot serve as practical alternatives to the project.

It was also suggested that if any of the gas transported by the proposed project is ultimately exported from the country, this would argue against the project . . . We note, however, that there is no indication in the record that any of the customers that have subscribed to capacity on the project contemplate using that capacity to export natural gas.

We note that . . . The 2010 PlaNYC progress report identifies the proposed NJ-NY Project as a key component of the effort to “supply cleaner burning natural gas” for the city. Natural gas is expected to serve as a partial substitute for heavy heating oil, which New York City is phasing out by prohibiting the installation of new boilers that use heavy heating oil . . . ConEd further states that timely authorization of proposed project is essential if it is to accommodate all the requests it is receiving for new firm gas service during the 2013/2014 winter season.

We find that activities related to gas production from shale formations are not causally related to the NJ-NY Project . . . The development of the Marcellus and other shale reserves is expected to proceed over decades, and will do so with or without the proposed project. The scope, scale, and speed of shale gas development cannot be accurately estimated, i.e., it is not “reasonably foreseeable.” Consequently, the past, present, and future effects of shale gas development are outside the scope of our NEPA cumulative impacts assessment. [FERC quotes the tar sands permit decision as precedent.]

Texaco Downstream Properties Inc. and Chevron Land and Development Company (collectively, Chevron) jointly request that the Commission convene a technical conference on potential environmental impacts of a portion of the proposed route that crosses the petitioners’ 44-acre property in Bayonne, New Jersey . . . we believe the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) adequately takes into account the potential for construction-related contamination and measures to ensure the integrity of a slurry wall proximate to the approved route.

Comments call attention to potential health risks of releasing radon when natural gas is burned indoors. . . we concur with the conclusion that the indoor exposure to radon from gas used in a residence should be limited. Radon initially entrained in extracted gas can be expected to be purged in part in the course of gas processing and to decay during transport from wellhead to burner tip . . . The Commission has no regulatory authority to set, monitor, or respond to indoor radon levels – local, state, and federal entities establish and enforce radon exposure standards for indoor air.

Numerous comments question the safety of the proposed NJ-NY Project. As described in final EIS section . . . the project’s facilities would be designed, constructed, operated, and maintained to meet the DOT Minimum Federal Safety Standards set forth in 49 C.F.R. Part 192 and in other applicable federal and state regulations.

The final EIS finds that the project would result in limited adverse environmental impacts if the project is constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. However, these impacts would mostly occur during construction and be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of the applicants’ proposed mitigation and our staff’s recommendations. Major issues raised during scoping and comments in response to the draft EIS are addressed in the final EIS.

What Does a "Sound Abatement Curtain" Look Like?

On Monday night, Feb. 27th, The Waterfront Committee of Community Board 2 (CB2) met to consider a Department of Transportation (DOT) permit related to Spectra's proposed plan. Any time the streets of the city are dug up, DOT must issue a permit, and DOT looks to the community boards for input on projects in their district. At Monday's meeting, Spectra, as the applicant, was allowed to present their usual "safety is our first concern" powerpoint, and answer questions from the board and audience members. It was perhaps not surprising that many members of the community board were, until this meeting, unaware of the project, despite its great impact on the waterfront. Little, besides volunteer efforts, has been done to spread the word. Bloomberg would prefer the project to slip by unnoticed, and City Council speaker Christine Quinn is happy to support Bloomberg, despite intense opposition from her own district. Even so, audience participation at the meeting was fierce.

Missing from Spectra's presentation was this artist's rendering, of the "sound abatement curtain" the company proposes to mitigate nighttime construction noise from the neighborhood. Details on the construction and this illustration can be found in a letter to DEC Project Manager, Christopher Hogan, posted to a website promoting the project, called, ironically, "Yes, Gas Pipeline."

At one point during the meeting, an audience member addressed the Spectra project manager and legal council and asked, "Has it crossed your mind what this project might do to the earth and to climate change?" He was met with confused stares.

Bloomberg Pushes Back on Opposition to the Pipeline

At this morning's press conference (Bloomberg speaks out on Cuomo's position on hydrofracking | Capital New York), in response to questions about The New York Times coverage of Thursday's Spectra pipeline hearing, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg used the opportunity to affirm his support for the pipe, and to back up Governor Andrew Cuomo's desire to open NY State to fracking. With City Council Speaker Christine Quinn by his side, Bloomberg said, "Governor Cuomo said he didn't want fracking in the watershed. I agree with that. But you shouldn’t walk away from an energy source that we need." In a way, it's good to finally hear Bloomberg come right out with his divisive policies about fracking, which would sacrifice areas outside our watershed and Syracuse's, leaving 80% of the residents of New York State unprotected from the likelihood that their aquifers will be poisoned by fracking. At the same time the Mayor has sought to protect NYC's watershed from gas development, he has initiated a massive gas buildout, including multiple pipelines, and the conversion of the city's boilers, buses and power plants to methane. With today's pronouncement, Mayor Bloomberg has seemingly echoed a headline from the 1970's fiscal crisis, only now the headline would read, "Bloomberg to Upstate: DROP DEAD."

Standing with the mayor was Christine Quinn, a politician with a supposedly anti-fracking stance, offering no objection to these statements. Too bad for anyone who lives in upstate New York or Pennsylvania, and too bad for the residents of her district in the West Village who might be blown up by the Spectra pipeline; progress is progress and they'll just have to deal with it, apparently.

As the mayor acknowledged at the press conference, almost all gas is fracked now. This is a problem, because gas carries the radon released during drilling through the pipelines and into people's stoves, where it can be inhaled, causing lung cancer. For New York City residents, using fracked gas from the Marcellus would put them more at risk from radon exposure. Since the fracked gas coming from nearby shale plays is more radioactive than other areas, and is delivered faster, especially in winter, it lessens the opportunity for radon to decay along the way. That's bad news for anyone, but even worse for the majority of city residents, who tend to have small and poorly-ventilated kitchens, often without a window.

The Mayor made a point this morning that stopping air pollution caused by coal-burning power plants is a priority. However, the Mayor's intention to reduce pollution from coal by replacing it with gas could end up worsening our air quality instead. The Cornell study by Robert Howarth showed that, when the entire life cycle of gas is taken into account, gas is actually more polluting than coal or oil, and methane is a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than C02. Given that emissions from drill sites can carry in a radius of up to 200 miles, regional air quality will suffer, as drilling upwind from us in Pennsylvania and NY State is built out.

As the mayor notes, only 20% of this pipeline is contracted for by Con Ed. So what's the intention for the other 80%? Since the Spectra pipeline is routed through the port areas of Bayonne, and since Statoil is a stakeholder, if this pipeline comes to be built, an LNG export terminal in our harbor is almost inevitable. Liberty Gas has already indicated their desire to build an LNG terminal in NJ. Liquified natural gas tankers in our harbor would off-gas 24/7, releasing methane directly into our atmosphere.

Chesapeake Energy, the main supplier of gas for this pipeline, has indicated their intention to export gas to higher-paying foreign markets. It is obvious the intention for the majority of this pipeline's capacity is for export. Drillers can't turn a profit without exporting, and once they do, the domestic price of gas is sure to rise as well.

Borough President Scott Stringer has pledged his opposition to the Spectra pipeline if it carries fracked gas, and until a cumulative impact study can be done. This is a reasonable approach. The outcome of building the Spectra or other massive gas pipelines, and converting the city to methane, could well end up as worse air pollution and a health crisis caused by radon exposure. No new infrastructure should be built, and no fracked gas should be allowed into NYC, until these issues can be addressed.

Rather than build it and see how it impacts human health later, let's just take a breath, and figure out whether this is such a good idea first. Better, greener solutions exist and could be built out in the same time frame as the PlaNYC 2030 intends to build out massive gas infrastructure instead. Developing renewable energy is something the Stanford University study says can be done--by 2030. So, in the same time frame we're aiming to operate on gas, we COULD operate instead on wind, water, and solar. That's no pipe dream, but the idea that continuing to depend on dirty fossil fuels will make our air cleaner, certainly IS.

The New York Times Covers the Spectra Pipeline

The first major media coverage of the pipeline hit newsstands today, with an article by Times reporter, Mireya Navarro, who attended last Thursday's hearing. The article generated enough buzz to be included in the NYToday news highlights and created a flurry of radio and blog coverage. The article notes the Spectra pipeline "has drawn firm support from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and barely a shrug from environmental groups. But with a decision by federal regulators expected early next year, an opposition campaign is gaining some heft." (Hey–That would be all of us!)

The fight against the pipeline has been led by grassroots groups such as No Gas Pipeline, Sane Energy Project, United for Action, NYH20, and now Occupy Wall Street, with support from the Sierra Club, and recently, Food and Water Watch. But it's true that the established NGOs, even those which claim to be anti-fracking, have largely turned a blind eye to this piece of infrastructure that will enable the development and export of shale gas. The disconnect is troubling.

Even an outfit one might expect strong opposition from, Friends of the High Line, has been M.I.A. on the topic. Given how dangerously close the pipeline would run to this beloved structure, and the likelihood of damage or destruction in the event of an accident, this is indeed odd. Coincidentally, the Times also reported the recent $20 million gift to the High Line conservancy from Mayor Bloomberg. We certainly hope the High Line is around long enough to make good use of this generous gift.