By MARTY GOODMAN
The Algonquin is a “natural” gas pipeline under construction about 45 miles north of New York City and a mere 1500 feet from the accident prone Indian Point nuclear-power plant in Buchanan, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley. Construction may be put on hold temporarily, pending a federal and state safety study urged by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) on Feb. 29.
Cuomo has bowed to pressure and protests from environmental organizations against the pipeline’s route, which cuts straight through pristine woods and wetlands, including public parkland—and even back yards in Peekskill. Many thousands of trees would be clear cut, and the pipeline would continue underneath the Hudson River. The immediate impact of the governor’s decision on pipeline construction is not known.
Gov. Cuomo, whose home is 10 miles from Indian Point, had called for a federal shutdown of the nuclear-power plant. But he had remained silent about the Algonquin pipeline until he received some 30,000 signatures from angry Algonquin opponents and the high profile arrest of protesters at the construction site.
The pipeline is owned by Spectra Energy, a Texas-based Fortune 500 corporation. Spectra plans to pump natural (fracked) gas in 42-inch high-pressure pipes from Pennsylvania, through New York and Connecticut, up to Massachusetts. Spectra currently uses 26-inch pipes. It has permits under “eminent domain” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Mark Dunlea, the chair of the New York Green Education Legal Fund, said of FERC, “They’re a horrible, horrible agency.” In 2011, FERC was found guilty of underestimating impacts on environmentally affected projects. Activists say that there is a convergence between Obama administration FERC officials and energy corporations, particularly in the case of Spectra and FERC.
Dubbed “The Montrose 9,” nine pipeline protesters were arrested in November at Montrose for blocking Spectra vehicles near Indian Point. Resist AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market Expansion Project) organized the protests. On Feb. 28, some 40 Resist AIM and members of faith-based environmental groups rallied across the street from Gov. Cuomo’s home, calling for the shutting down of Indian Point, stopping Algonquin, and divesting from fossil fuels.
The methane in natural gas is 86 times more toxic than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Nationally, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), recorded serious ruptures of pipelines occurred six times a week in 2015, three times more than in the 1950s and 1960s!
The proximity of the pipeline to Indian Point adds to the high anxiety felt by residents. Paul Blanch, a 45-year former nuclear engineer with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and at Indian Point, says a pipeline rupture could prevent the safe shutdown of the reactor, endangering 20 million New Yorkers. Last May, Indian Point, owned by Entergy, had a transformer knocked out in one of the reactors, spilling oil and fire retardant foam into the Hudson River. In February, Entergy admitted to “alarming levels of radioactivity” in water in three of its wells.
Resist AIM (www.resistaim.com) has conducted teach-ins and tours for activists of areas blighted by Spectra. On Feb. 28, some 40 Resist AIM and members of faith based environmental groups rallied across the street from Gov. Cuomo’s home, calling for the shutting down of Indian Point, stopping the Algonquin pipeline and divesting from fossil fuels.
On Feb. 29, eleven people were arrested in Verplanck, where they blocked two entrances to the Algonquin pipeline on the same day that Cuomo called on the Obama administration to halt Algonquin.
Although Cuomo has called for closing Indian Point, he has continued to support three remaining upstate nuclear plants. Citing losses, the Entergy Corp. says it plans to close its Fitzpatrick plant, but the governor has vowed to keep the plant open, using “every legal and regulatory avenue.”
In addition, Pilgrim Pipeline is planning to build pipelines to transport volatile fracked Bakken shale oil and possibly tar sands crude through New York State. These twin pipelines would carry fracked Bakken and possibly heavy crude from Albany, N.Y., to Linden, N.J., and flammable refined products back to Albany. Activists demand that Cuomo stop Pilgrim Pipeline.
A mass movement is needed to stop the pipelines and all fossil-fuel production and to convert to 100% renewable energy now. Socialists say take the profit out of energy and save the planet!
Photo: 350.org founder Bill McKibben is arrested along with 56 residents of Schuyler County, N.Y. during March 7 civil disobedience protest against proposed storage of fracked gas in the salt caverns at Seneca Lake. From We Are Seneca Lake