SEnRG Goes to Federal Court!
Challenge to AIM Pipeline Approval Before DC Circuit Court
Foes say the AIM project was merely the first step in the pipeline expansion. They want a review of the overall work.
Oral arguments were heard Oct. 19 in the case pitting opponents of the Algonquin Pipeline expansion against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Ellen Weininger, [Courtney Williams, Susan Van Dolsen, Nancy Vann, and Marie Inserra] from Westchester County made the trip to DC Circuit Court for oral arguments Thursday.
The opponents said it was about time.
“From its inception Spectra’s massive Algonquin pipeline expansion violated federal law to avoid a full review of its cumulative impacts,” she said in a press release. “While the courts finally hear oral arguments on the case today in D.C., tens of millions of people in New York and across New England, living and working in the pipeline’s path, continue to remain in harm’s way.”
Spectra Energy officials told Patch they could not comment on matters in litigation.
FERC approved the first phase of Spectra Energy’s pipeline expansion in March 2015. The project, called the Algonquin Incremental Market Expansion (AIM), was the first of a three-part expansion designed to increase the volume of gas carried by an existing pipeline through New York into New England and to Canada.
From April of 2015 until January 2016 a “Tolling Order” issued by FERC blocked opponents in groups from New York to Massachusetts from proceeding with legal action to challenge the approval. Thursday, lawyers representing those grassroots organizations, including SAPE, the non-profit organization Riverkeeper, the City of Boston, and the Town of Dedham, MA presented oral arguments in the case.
In the intervening two and a half years much has happened, opponents said. The pipeline’s parent company, Spectra, was purchased by Canadian oil and gas giant Enbridge, a partner in the Dakota Access Pipeline. The second project, Atlantic Bridge, was approved by FERC, and Spectra began work in New York and asked FERC to put certain portions into operation. The third pipeline expansion project, Access Northeast, was halted by the company, which wants to have ratepayers foot the bills.
Residents and environmental groups argue that FERC’s approval of the AIM project violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
“Every day we live with the risk of this pipeline next to the elementary school, the nuclear power plant, the church, and before we can even get our day in court, FERC gives Spectra permission to pick up where they left off with AIM by just changing the project name to Atlantic Bridge. Same pipe, same place, same project,” said Peekskill resident Courtney Williams.
Opponents allege that NEPA requires that FERC consider the cumulative environmental impacts of the projects it considers. FERC examined and rejected that argument, saying it could only consider the projects brought before it.
The challengers contend that the AIM project was merely the first step in a massive expansion of the pipeline, arbitrarily broken into the parts to avoid a full accounting of the impacts it would have. They argued that marketing materials for the projects show they follow-on one another in time and location like pieces of a puzzle, clearly interconnected.
In a previous filing with FERC, Spectra argued that the law about unfair segmentation only applies to proposals. The company said the Atlantic Bridge and Access Northeast projects were still in their development phases and neither was a ‘proposal’ subject to NEPA review. “As a result, the Atlantic Bridge project and Access Northeast project need not be considered as ‘cumulative actions’ in the [AIM] Project EIS.”
A decision is expected from the Circuit Court in two to six months.
Resist the Spectra AIM Pipeline!!
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And if You Don’t Know WHY Yet, Watch the Videos!
Westchester County Elections are November 7, 2017
There will be Two Ballot Propositions for Environmentalists to Watch
Please be sure to research the impact that the NYS Propositions will have on environmental causes. Props 1 and 3 are of particular concern for those concerned with fracking and the buildout of fossil fuel infrastructure.
The concern is that Prop 1 would allow changes to our State Constitution that could permit fracking in NYS. With Prop 3, the change opens the door to construction of pipelines through our ‘Forever Wild’ parklands.
Please VOTE like an environmentalist!
SEnRG Goes to the People’s Hearing!
Washington, D.C. – Following a recent letter to Congress calling for an investigation and review of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), representatives from across the country held a People’s Hearing to testify to FERC’s extensive history of bias and abuse against the environment.
In the first-ever in-person compilation of this scale of FERC’s abuses, witnesses shared stories about their personal experiences, documenting the many instances in which FERC has skirted critical regulations and laws, infringed on states’ rights by approving pipelines before state regulators have fully considered an application, and hired biased consultants. Individuals recounted how FERC ignored requests for transparency, interfering with the public review process and holding “public” hearings behind closed doors.
The Hudson Valley was represented at the hearing by residents challenging FERC’s approval of Spectra’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Expansion Project. The project, plagued by delays, environmental violations, and strong local, state, and Congressional opposition would run only 105 feet from critical safety infrastructure at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Peekskill, NY resident and SEnRG Vice President Courtney Williams, PhD gave testimony during the day’s segment “Ignoring Facts, Science & Law.” Williams, a cancer researcher with a doctorate in Molecular Biology who lives 400ft from the AIM Pipeline said,
“I presented evidence that FERC ignores science to the detriment of the public and the benefit of the fossil fuel industry. Their environmental impact statements do not meet standards for scientific rigor, nor would they pass peer review, as a result the public health and the environment suffer.”
Others from the Hudson Valley testifying at the hearing included Suzannah Glidden, Amy Rosmarin, and Susan Van Dolsen from Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE), nuclear safety expert Paul Blanch, and Nancy Vann, President of SEnRG. Their statements, along with dozens of others, conclusively demonstrated to Congress the need to reform this notoriously opaque agency. Commissioners have only rejected one pipeline project in the past 30 years, allowing many others to continue no matter the environmental and human consequences. The collection substantiated what is already clear from FERC’s approval record: this unsupervised agency, funded by those it regulates, is unfit to serve. Nancy Vann states “I hope that this will bring these issues the national attention they deserve. The AIM project, for one, could have catastrophic national impacts making New York City – the world’s financial center – uninhabitable for millennia.”
Susan Van Dolsen delivered testimony on behalf of SAPE and Food & Water Watch that exposed conflicts of interest that compromise the entire pipeline review process. “FERC’s conflict of interest policies are vague and contradictory and the Commission has demonstrated an egregious lack of transparency regarding the contractors hired to conduct the assessments on which the projects’ approvals depend. The Commission has not complied with its legal obligations under NEPA to conduct an independent environmental review, yet Spectra continues to move ahead with projects that put millions of people at grave risk.”
Among the Community activists from across the country that participated were:
Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG), Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE). Clean Water Action, Earthworks, Berks Gas Truth, Beyond Extreme Energy, Food & Water Watch, Catskill Mountainkeeper
Held at the National Press Club – Washington, D.C. – December 2, 2016
Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG) is a group of engaged citizens working together to protect communities in the Northeast from unsafe energy development and infrastructure. We employ our experience and professional expertise to assist those impacted by harmful fossil fuel projects in exercising their rights to safe, sustainable energy. Our goal is to provide credible information and support to ensure that communities of all sizes can protect their health and safety. To this end, we assist citizens in taking social, legal, and political action as they demand meaningful dialogue and adherence to the law from elected officials and permitting agencies.
We’re All in This Together! Every Fight Is Our Fight
At Halloween Ball Blowout & Film Screening Peekskill Rocks!
Proceeds will support resistance to the Spectra/AIM pipeline
that is threatening our community’s health and safety
If you couldn’t make it, here are some highlights in Actor Ben Curtis’s Video:
What We’re Fighting For
SEnRG President Nancy Vann joins others at an early morning vigil in Buchanan, NY to mark the fact that Spectra Energy was unable to put its AIM Pipeline expansion into service today as they had requested. She celebrates “We are here because we have stopped it so far – and we will continue to do that.”
Click here for:
The ‘Fabulous Four’ Water Protectors:
Riverkeeper and Coalition Call for Immediate Halt to AIM Pipeline Because of Catastrophic Consequences for Indian Point
Westchester County, NY — Riverkeeper and a coalition of groups has filed a Motion for a Stay asking a federal court to stop the construction of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project before high volumes of fracked natural gas begin flowing through the pipeline located in close proximity to the aging Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. The AIM project is just the first of three expansions planned for the Algonquin pipeline (AIM, Atlantic Bridge, and Access Northeast). Together they are intended to bring fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic region to New England and to Liquified Natural Gas terminals in Canada for shipping overseas.
A lawsuit challenging the project’s approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Motion seeks to immediately stop the pipeline construction while the Court considers that appeal. The same Court reprimanded the regulatory agency in 2014 for approving a similar unlawful segmentation of a pipeline project. In that case, the construction was already finished by the time the Court reached its decision — a result the Motion hopes to prevent for the AIM project.
FERC’s approval of the high volume gas pipeline close to Indian Point accepted a faulty analysis done by the plant owner (Entergy) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In papers filed with the Court, noted nuclear safety and pipeline safety experts detail how the analysis greatly underestimated the blast radius of a pipeline explosion. Their chilling analysis shows that an explosion might engulf the entire Indian Point nuclear power plant site.
“Federal law requires a thorough look at the consequences to our community of the failure of a gas pipeline next to Indian Point,” said Riverkeeper’s Director of Legal Programs. “In this case it simply was not done, and we intend to hold the project and the federal agency accountable for a failure that could have dramatic consequences for New York City and the Hudson Valley.”
The Motion filed by the coalition is also based on new evidence that the company approved by FERC to analyze the project’s impacts on the environment has a financial conflict of interest. With FERC’s approval, the company has been reviewing the three segments separately in order to downplay their environmental impacts even though Spectra marketed these segments as one project from the beginning. The reviewing company has a financial incentive to approve the pipeline because of ongoing business with Spectra as well as business from the next two phases of the project.
“The fact that FERC would approve an analysis by a contractor hired by Spectra to review installing a 42-inch diameter high-pressure gas line next to a trouble-plagued nuclear power plant that’s at the intersection of two earthquake fault lines really speaks for itself,” said Nancy Vann, President of Safe Energy Rights Group. “There seems to be no limit to what FERC will do to add to the already extensive and unnecessary pipeline sprawl that increases its own funding. Twenty million people in the Greater NYC area would be at risk!”
For years, many organizations and governmental officials have been demanding that FERC cease rubber-stamping pipeline projects without adequate environmental and safety analyses.
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand from New York and Senators Markey and Warren from Massachusetts, Governor Cuomo of New York, Congressional Representatives from several states, New York State legislators, and local officials have all called on FERC to stop the AIM project until there has been an independent analysis of the risk to public safety and an investigation of the contractor’s conflict of interest. Yet, FERC has refused to do so.
“Today, we are demanding an immediate halt to construction of the Spectra AIM pipeline before fracked-gas starts flowing in November,” said Greta Zarro, Food & Water Watch New York Organizer. “Approval of this dangerous project was based on inadequate risk assessments; there is simply no way to safely build a high-pressure gas pipeline adjacent to a leaking nuclear power plant positioned on top of two earthquake fault lines.”
SEnRG organized the coalition of groups soon after FERC approved the AIM project. It now includes Riverkeeper, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club Lower Hudson, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE), the Reynolds Hills Community and other environmental and community activists.
More from The ‘Fabulous Four’ Water Protectors:
Thanks to Everyone Who Attended
Our Harvest Square Dance & Fundraiser!
Letting our representatives know that we expect their
support to stop climate change!
SEnRG President Nancy Vann at Philadelphia Climate March, July 24, 2016
Then donate here: gofundme
For the latest updates on SEnRG, see our Blog here
Coalition Organized by SEnRG Files Lawsuit Against Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
On March 28th, a coalition of groups from four states, including Riverkeeper, Inc., Food & Water Watch, Reynolds Hill, Inc., Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) and a dozen individuals filed a petition with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals asking the court to review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) gas pipeline expansion project. On January 28, 2016, after a nine-month delay during which construction began, FERC denied eight separate rehearing requests from groups, individuals and municipalities, including the City of Boston and coalition members. Those who were denied a rehearing had sixty days to file a federal appeal, ending yesterday. The City of Boston and the Township of Dedham, Massachusetts have also filed Federal appeals in the case.
Following a tritium leak from Indian Point in February, New York’s Governor Cuomo asked FERC to stay construction on the project while an independent study of the health and safety impacts could be conducted. Last Friday, FERC denied his request too.
Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said “It’s disturbing that a federal regulator that’s duty-bound to protect the health and welfare of the public remains oblivious to the many potential dangers and pitfalls this project creates. It is even more disturbing that FERC continues to ignore the real risks involved with running a gas pipeline adjacent to the property of an aging, problematic nuclear plant, which poses a great risk to the region even without this project.”
Affected property owner and SEnRG president Nancy Vann remarked “We’ve been raising valid concerns about this project since 2013 – but when a captive agency like FERC is making the decisions and then reviewing its own conclusions it’s difficult to obtain a fair hearing. We are pleased to finally be able to take our issues to Federal court and are hopeful that they will get the consideration they deserve.”
Click here for more information!
Click here to see the coalition’s Federal court filing.
FERC Denies Rehearing Request for Spectra/AIM Pipeline – Activists Commit to Federal Litigation!
Opponents of a natural gas pipeline currently under construction in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts will appeal a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that has allowed the controversial Spectra/AIM project to continue over the objections of environmentalists, elected officials, and residents.
On January 28th, FERC rejected a ‘Rehearing Request’ from numerous pipeline opponents who say the project unnecessarily damages the environment and passes dangerously close to the Indian Point nuclear power facility on the Hudson River near New York City and an quarry with active blasting near Boston, Massachusetts.
FERC’s decision to deny the request for rehearing means that opposition groups and individuals can finally file an appeal in Federal court to stop the project. Those pipeline opponents include a four-state coalition of intervenors who have worked since 2013 to defeat the $1 billion project. A Federal court challenge is the only remaining legal means of halting the project, which has already inflicted considerable damage across the region. The appeal must be filled within 60 days of the FERC decision.
Click here for more information about the Rehearing Request.
Update on Montrose 9 Trial
On Wednesday, February 3rd, after an almost two hour delay, Judge Daniel McCarthy adjourned the Montrose 9 trial at the Town Court in Cortlandt, NY without a date set for continuation. The decision came as the defendants and their supporters waited while the judge, the DA, and attorneys for the defendants conferred in chambers regarding a procedural issue.
Cortlandt Town Council Member Seth Freach is one of the witnesses who plans to testify on the behalf of the defense and Judge McCarthy adjourned in order to consider steps that govern his own responsibilities when having an elected official testifying before him. He noted that these issues might possibly require a change of venue.
Anti-pipeline sentiment understandably runs deep among elected officials in local communities. As Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi put it in a recent article, the AIM Pipeline “really doesn’t benefit anybody in our community. It just devastates a lot of our land.” Prior to the Judge’s decision, the courtroom was filled with nearly 100 people who came to show their support for the Montrose 9.
Residents from nearby Croton had organized a faith vigil against the AIM pipeline prior to the 9:00am court time and, despite being kept waiting, supporters only left the courtroom after the Judge made his ruling. Many residents recognize that the Montrose 9 were justified in taking direct action to defend their homes and communities from the AIM pipeline and they demonstrated their commitment to standing with the Montrose 9 as the case moves forward. A decision on how to proceed is expected by March 18th. The trial, and use of the ‘necessity defense’ continue to draw national attention to Cortlandt and the fight to halt Spectra Energy’s AIM Pipeline through New York.
The ‘Montrose 9’ Plead Not Guilty
Go To Trial!
At The Press Conference Before Start of Trial:
Nuclear Expert Paul Blanch Explains the Risks:
SEnRG Vice President Courtney Williams Discusses the Trial on Portland Radio:
Click here to listen:
SEnRG goes to Albany!
SEnRG President Nancy Vann speaks about the AIM pipeline at Albany ‘State of the State’ Rally
A Short Video About All of the Wonderful Folks We Work With:
And special thanks to Erik McGregor for his fabulous video compilation.
If you liked the Algonquin tree clearing video (below), you’re sure to love this one:
By Susan Rubin & Andrea Garbarini 10-26-15
A Tree-Eating Monster on the Loose in Courtland
(Please Watch and Share):
SEnRG is a non-profit organization.
Please consider making a donation to continue the fight to halt Spectra’s hazardous AIM pipeline project.
AIM Pipeline Project – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the approval certificate for the Algonquin AIM pipeline project, Spectra Energy’s dangerous, and ill-conceived pipeline expansion adjacent to both the Indian Point nuclear energy facility and a working quarry doing frequent blasting. Additionally, FERC’s review of the AIM project failed to adequately consider dangerous health and safety impacts faced locally by communities as the pipeline and its maintenance infrastructure courses through the region. On April 2, 2015, SEnRG along with several community groups from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts filed a rehearing motion to challenge FERC’s approval of the project.
Continuing the fight in Albany – Pipeline opponents including SEnRG have urged the state to begin a health study of people who live near current pipelines, and to gather air quality samples from areas where new pipelines are proposed, so that if projects are completed potential changes in air quality could be calculated.
Continuing the fight in Westchester – We held a die-in at the Westchester County Center to urge the Westchester Board of Health to protect residents from the air and water quality effects of fracked-gas infrastructure. We also went to Tarrytown recently to urge the NRC Chairman to demand an independent risk assessment of siting the pipeline so close to the Indian Point nuclear plant.
Click Here for a Youtube Video of the Albany Press Conference