Not Done Yet!
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.
The AIM Pipeline Story – In Under Five Minutes
Resist the Spectra AIM Pipeline – Sign the Pledge!!
Courtney Williams Lays It All Out for RT!
Spectra Wrecks Blue Mountain Park
Would Astorino want to picnic here?
Our Feisty “Spectra Clones” Address FERC Commissioners
Commissions surprised at their monthly meeting
One Year ResistSpectra Anniversary Video:
Climate Heroes and Pipeline Resisters Eric McGregor (photography) & Fred Gillen (music) summarize a year of direct action against the Algonquin Pipeline expansion.
What the media is writing about us:
‘Pipeline Purgatory’ the Goal as Activists Take Fight Local
by Meenal Vamburkar and Jennifer A Dlouhy – Bloomberg News
For fossil-fuel foes fighting a new generation of U.S. pipelines, Donald Trump’s election as president may be somewhat beside the point.
Instead of engaging a federal bureaucracy they believe will line up against them, activists now plan to “double down on the state and local level,” according to Jane Kleeb, president of Bold Alliance, a national activist network that’s fought both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL project. “The opposition is going to be much more local, much more focused,” she said.
Although Trump has promised to speed up federal permits and regulatory review, his influence doesn’t extend to local communities or states. That’s where activists are working aggressively to get regulators, lawmakers and the courts on their side, Kleeb and others said. Already, they’ve helped get new laws passed in Georgia and North Carolina limiting the use of eminent domain to seize property for pipelines.
Call it “pipeline purgatory,” said Matthew Hoza, an analyst at the Colorado-based consulting firm BTU Analytics LLC. By exploiting local landowner concerns and state permit processes, activists are ensnaring projects “in unending litigation on a state level,” making them “not really alive, not really dead,” he said.
The network of pipelines now in place for liquids including oil and gasoline stretches 207,800 miles, according to a website sponsored by the Association of Oil Pipe Lines. Builders say new pipelines are needed as locations of key energy sources change, and to replace aging infrastructure. When pipeline capacity fills, drillers are forced to resort to more expensive rail shipments, raising costs for their product. Meanwhile, natural gas can be stranded because pipes are the only delivery option.
It’s an argument that has gained some momentum across the border in Canada. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved pipeline proposals by Kinder Morgan Inc. and Enbridge Inc. in a decision aimed at balancing environmental protection with expanded market access for oil producers.
Pipelines also can offer local communities an economic gain, according to Alan Armstrong, chief executive officer at Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners LP, which owns and operates more than 33,000 miles of U.S. gas-gathering and distribution lines. In May, Armstrong said his company’s Constitution Pipeline will aid development in New York and help New England’s transition to cleaner natural gas from coal-fired power.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, are playing a long game, aiming to completely change America’s energy profile in the future, according to Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Dirty Fuels campaign.
“We’re in this critical window where renewables are going to be cost competitive in a few years,” said Moffitt, who is based in Oakland, California. “If we can forestall gas infrastructure being put in the ground and locking in that demand for the next 60 years — if we can forestall that by maybe just five years — the hope is that renewables will come in and be cost competitive in all markets.”
The timeline for FERC approval has gotten lengthier. From initial filing to notice of construction, the average processing time is almost 70 days longer than prior to 2014, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Brandon Barnes in a report.
Delays add costs, as does re-routing. The pushback Moffitt and others describe has already scared off investors, slowed plans and spurred developers to abandon others.
In March, following opposition in Georgia, Kinder Morgan scrapped its Palmetto pipeline, designed to carry gasoline, diesel and ethanol from South Carolina into Florida. The Constitution Pipeline, set to transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York, remains in legal limbo as developer Williams Partners fights a state agency’s rejection of a water permit almost two years after it was blessed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“It’s the new reality of what we deal with as pipeline developers,” said Blue Jenkins, executive vice president of EQT Corp., a Pittsburgh-based integrated energy company. “The opponents are very organized, they are very aggressive, and they are very vocal.”
To be sure, Trump is likely to make a difference nationally for two pipelines that have long been flash points: TransCanada Corp.’s 1,179-mile Keystone XL project, and the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline developed by Energy Transfer Partners LP.
President Barack Obama rejected Keystone last year, saying it wouldn’t aid the U.S. economy, drop gasoline prices or boost energy security. That followed a seven-year dispute that, at times, turned more on political issues than economic ones. The $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline was delayed in September after local Native Americans said it will hurt culturally significant sites. Trump has said he’ll approve Keystone XL as soon as Jan. 20, his first day in office.
Public comments submitted to FERC help indicate which plans are likely to receive the most resistance. The PennEast pipeline, designed to carry gas from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, received more than 3,500 comments since 2014. Even if federal regulators ultimately okay it — now at least seven months later than planned — the same people who flooded FERC with feedback are likely to contact state regulators, BTU’s Hoza said.
Activists have “been emboldened by Keystone and the growing number of victories like Constitution,” prompting grassroots efforts nationwide, said the Sierra Club’s Moffitt. They’re “looking at the legal hooks” that can tie up approvals for years.
Nancy Vann is among the local activists. Since 2013, the retired attorney has fought Spectra Energy Corp.’s Algonquin Incremental Market project, which runs through her neighborhood near Peekskill, New York. She questions its proximity to the Indian Point Energy Center nuclear plant, and disputes its need. As head of the local Safe Energy Rights Group, Vann said she’s often in touch with other activists and has helped train foes of the Constitution project on rights of way and land rights.
Vann’s involvement highlights a key difference now as opposed to the past. Developers are crossing more urban areas, and in places relatively unaccustomed to them. Pipelines may be ubiquitous in Texas and Oklahoma; they are not in Massachusetts and Maine.
For now, pipeline operators are dealing with the problem by increasing outreach to local residents, hewing to existing rights of way when possible and favoring small projects.
“Pipelines, like it or not, have been pulled into this broader philosophical debate about climate policy,” said Donald Santa, president and chief executive officer of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. “We have become a theater in that war.”
Riverkeeper and a coalition of environmental groups filed a motion in federal court last week to halt construction of Spectra Energy’s pipeline project before natural gas begins flowing in closing proximity to the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan.
Coincidentally, the construction did temporarily stop on Friday after a tanker ran into a rock and spilled 45 gallons of diesel fuel on a site in Peekskill where the pipeline is being expanded, a mishap confirmed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“The fact that FERC would approve an analysis by a contractor hired by Spectra to approve installing a 42-inch diameter high pressure gas line next to a trouble-plagued nuclear plant that’s at the intersection of two earthquake fault lines really speaks for itself,” said Nancy Vann, a resident of Buchanan and president of the 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!”
In its Motion for a Stay, nuclear and pipeline safety experts consulted by the coalition detail how an analysis done by Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission underestimated the blast radius of a pipeline explosion, and how such an explosion might engulf the entire nuclear plant property, located on the shorelines of the Hudson River.
“Federal law requires a thorough look at the consequences to our community of the failure of a gas pipeline next to Indian Point,” said John Parker, 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.”
Governor Cuomo and many other elected officials have called on FERC to stop the AIM project until an independent analysis of the risk to public safety is conducted. The AIM expansion is one of three planned pipeline projects that will distribute fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic region to New England and then to Canada for shipping overseas.
On Sunday, interfaith and community leaders gathered for a peaceful vigil in front of Cuomo’s Mount Kisco home to urge him to direct President Obama to halt construction of the pipeline. A simultaneous action took place at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany.
Spectra Energy anticipates beginning to distribute the gas sometime in late October.
What we’re Doing Now!
“No danger to the public” Again??
Two pipeline ruptures in two days SHOULD have someone noticing
“DPW crews hit a small gas line that was incorrectly marked while they were digging to get to the broken water main. There was no danger, but Con Edison crews had to come in to fix the gas line, putting the water main repairs on hold for more than two hours.”
For New12 report click here
For Daily Voice report click here
Rally at the Peekskill Riverfront to Stop the AIM Pipeline
April 3, 2016
SEnRG’s Nancy Vann and Courtney Williams join a lineup of speakers fighting the AIM Pipeline.
Chronicling the Reynolds Hills Resistance to AIM
Same Spot Before & After:
Why More Pipelines Are a REALLY Bad Idea!
How far away from one do YOU want to be? 450 feet from an 8-inch pipeline? What about a 42-inch pipeline?
How far do you want a pipeline to be from Indian Point? How close should pipeline excavation work be done to an existing pipeline?
How careful are YOUR neighbors? YOUR utility workers and government construction workers?
How valuable is your property? your life? your family?
12th Graders Against the Pipeline!
A 12th grade Economics class would like to bring awareness to the potentially catastrophic event that is threatening our lives. They created this Public Service Announcement. Spread the word & DO something: let’s STOP the Algonquin Gas Pipeline Extension!
Listen to Jessica Roff, Program Manager at Catskill Mountainkeeper, in conversation with Alison Rose Levy about the Governor’s recent decision to halt the Spectra pipeline construction through the Indian Point nuclear power plant pending safety studies.
FERC Denies AIM Rehearing Request
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.
What Jewish Law Says About Crumbling Indian Point Nuclear Plant
Jay MichaelsonMarch 11, 2016
What does an ox’s propensity for violence have to do with a leaky nuclear reactor? One is an ancient, Jewish example of negligence; the other is a very contemporary one. But the ethical imperative is the same: When there’s an imminent risk of danger to the public, it’s morally wrong to do nothing.
Let’s start with the present. Twenty-five miles north of New York City, the crumbling Indian Point nuclear power plant is leaking radioactive water. And yet what has been the government’s response? Forge ahead with a 42-inch natural gas pipeline right underneath that power plant.
Although The New York Times published an excellent op-ed on the plant this week, that article omitted the pipeline entirely, focusing only on the need to close Indian Point.
To be sure, there’s a strong case to be made for closure. Indian Point went online on September 16, 1962, when gasoline cost 31 cents and JFK was president. As you might expect, a power plant built before the invention of the pocket calculator has had its share of mishaps. (Indian Point actually comprises three plants; the younger two went online in 1974 and 1976.) In 2015, for example, it experienced seven unplanned shutdowns.
And on February 5 of this year, Entergy, the company that operates the plant (“safe, secure, vital,” it says), reported elevated levels of the radioactive isotope Tritium in groundwater wells. Highly elevated: Levels of Tritium increased 65,000% and reached 700 times higher than threshold safety levels.
Add that to the nuclear waste at the facility, which is also leaking out because Indian Point was never intended to be a long-term waste storage site.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to his credit, believes that it’s time to retire the Indian Point plant and, among other things, invest in renewables. So did that New York Times op-ed.
But it seems that one of those “other things” is Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market project, a web of natural gas pipelines that stretches from New Jersey to Boston.
In other words, fracking. The AIM pipeline, if completed, will pipe fracked natural gas (that is, methane) from the Appalachians to New England. Cuomo has so far been silent on the AIM pipeline, giving it his tacit approval. FERC, the federal agency responsible for the pipeline, approved it in 2015.
Now, common sense would seem to disagree. Natural gas pipelines rupture all the time; there were 119 pipeline accidents in 2014. Right now, a gas storage leak outside Los Angeles is spewing 62 million cubic feet of methane into the atmosphereevery day. And the AIM pipeline would run just 105 feet away from the Indian Point plant. Twenty million people live within 50 miles.
The icing on the cake? Both the plant and the pipeline lie less than a mile from a fault line.
How is any of this possible?
First, for all the common-sense objections to a huge natural gas pipeline passing underneath a crumbling nuclear power plant on a fault line 25 miles north of the largest city in America, the fact is that both the pipeline and the plant have continually obtained regulatory approvals. And Spectra, the company building the pipeline, points out that it has older, smaller pipelines across the Indian Point property already, and they’ve operated without incident for decades.
Of course, critics charge that both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which monitors Indian Point, and FERC, which monitors the pipeline, are in the pockets of their respective industries. But the i’s have all been dotted.
Second, New York and New England need energy. And while Cuomo’s renewable energy plan could offset the power lost by taking Indian Point offline — currently about 13% of New York State’s total energy consumption — that doesn’t compensate for the fracked methane that would power New York and Southern New England.
Moreover, if you think through Cuomo’s logic, the risk of a pipeline underneath a closed plant is far less significant than that of a pipeline under an open one. In a way, supporting the AIM pipeline gives him ammunition to oppose Indian Point.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, both are chugging along. Indian Point continues to split uranium atoms, and ground has been broken on the part of the AIM pipeline that will cross the Hudson River underneath it.
Here’s where that goring ox comes in. Jewish law is clear, in general and in detail, that it is negligent to create a risk to the public. If you let an ox loose, and it gores someone, you are responsible, because you placed the risk in the public domain.
The Indian Point plan is a modern-day ox. But as long as it remains open, or its waste remains on site, so is the Spectra Pipeline.
Indeed, the Pipeline-plus-Plant risk gets even worse. Perversely, the NRC includes terrorism in its purview, but only for the plant itself. The pipeline, meanwhile, has not been deemed a terrorist target at all, even though if you can blow up the pipeline, you might be able to blow up the plant.
You might not even need explosives. According to the Wall Street Journal, Iranian-backed hackers gained control of a dam near Rye, New York, in 2013. Although nothing came of the attack, it nonetheless showed how the country’s power infrastructure is highly vulnerable to cyber attack. So it’s possible that even if the pipeline-plant-megacity-fault-line combination isn’t enough of an environmental risk, it may be a national security one.
Activists scored a recent victory on these grounds last November, when Cuomo rejected a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas port near Long Island, citing the “potential for disaster” in case of another super-storm or a terrorist attack. Cuomo had previously banned fracking in New York, citing health risks. Clearly, activists are hoping for a similar step here.
Of course, opponents of the pipeline also have a wider agenda. Some are NIMBYs (“Not In My Back Yard”). Some are greens who want to ban fracking and generally reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Some have resorted to direct action, including the “Montrose 9,” a group of nine activists who blocked the entrance to an AIM construction site last November.
But a lot are people worried that something must be slipping through the cracks. I’ll admit — I’m one of those people. I live, part time, in a small town eight miles from Indian Point. Every year, we get our updated evacuation guides in case something goes wrong. The risk of that happening is about to get a lot greater.
We need religious, as well as environmentalist, voices on this issue. We need to reframe our public discussion of environmental risk to include ethical, moral and religious traditions within it. And if we don’t, we may not be legally liable for what might happen, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor to the Forward. Follow him on Twitter @JayMichaelson
Mayor Walsh to fight West Roxbury [AIM] pipeline in Federal court
Joining opponents of a natural gas pipeline under construction in West Roxbury, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Wednesday he will appeal a decision by federal regulators that allowed the controversial project to continue over the objections of nearby residents.
A subsidiary of Houston-based Spectra Energy Partners LP began construction last year on the so-called West Roxbury Lateral pipeline, a five-mile spur of a larger, $1 billion project to increase the capacity of New England’s largest natural gas pipeline.
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, rejected a raft of complaints from neighbors and other pipeline opponents who say the project is environmentally irresponsible and passes dangerously close to a quarry in West Roxbury whose operators use dynamite to excavate stone.
The FERC’s decision to deny the “request for rehearing” filed by opponents meant an appeal in federal court was the only remaining option to challenge the project. Walsh’s office said it would file such an appeal by the end of March.
“Mayor Walsh continues to be committed to fighting for the best interests and safety of the residents of West Roxbury,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Today the City of Boston, along with our partners at the federal, state and local level, made the decision to appeal the denial of the Request for a Rehearing in federal court.”
For the full Article in The Boston Globe click here
FERC Denies Rehearing Request – Activist Commit to Federal Litigation!
Update on ‘Montrose 9’ Trial:
Click below for ‘The Northern Westchester Examiner’ Article
Our friends and allies at ResistAIM kick it up a notch with the arrest of the ‘Montrose 9’:
Click Here for the ‘Democracy Now!’ Article – Montrose 9 Trial
Click Here for the ‘News12′ Video – Montrose 9 Trial
Click Here for the ‘LoHud’ Story – Montrose 9 Trial
Click Here for the ‘Patch’ Article – Montrose 9 Pretrial Press Conference
Click Here for the ‘Patch’ Article – Upcoming Montrose 9 Trial
Click Here for the ‘Peekskill Daily Voice’ Article – Montrose 9 Trial
Click Here for the American Herald Tribune Article – Montrose 9 Trial
Click Here for the Popular Resistance Blog – Montrose 9 Trial
Algonquin pipeline opponents arrested
after blocking construction
MONTROSE – Nine people were arrested Monday morning after blocking the entrance to Spectra Energy’s parking lot for the Algonquin pipeline construction.
State police spokeswoman Trooper Melissa McMorris said police were dispatched at about 6:30 a.m. to 207 Albany Post Road, Route 9A, where dozens of people were protesting the ongoing pipeline construction.
Their action caused a traffic backup, and nine people were arrested for disorderly conduct, she said. They were released with tickets to appear in the Cortlandt Town Court on Nov. 20, McMorris said.
Linda Snider of Hastings-on-Hudson, who was one of those arrested, said opponents took action to call for more attention to the safety issues related to the pipeline.
“I’ve never been arrested before. I’m 74 years old, and I have had it,” Snider said. “So many people in Westchester don’t seem to know the dangerous side of this pipeline expansion. Some of us have been working against this for some time. It seems to be the only way to get attention is by trying to stop it … by actually blocking the road.”
Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market Project (AIM) will expand existing pipeline systems in New York and three other states to carry more natural gas north from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. The project will replace parts of the pipeline as well as run a new section through Stony Point, under the Hudson River and into Verplanck and Buchanan.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in March. Opponents have been trying to reverse the decision, citing, among other concerns, their belief that the pipeline is too close to the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan.
About a month ago, opponents delivered 30,000 petition signatures to Albany, calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to halt the project.
The Rev. George Packard of Rye, a retired bishop who was also arrested, said the risk of installing a high-pressure 42-inch-diameter pipeline near the nuclear plant shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“The safety history of these pipelines is a very suspect,” Packard said.
Marylee Hanley, the pipeline’s spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company “respects the right of individuals to peacefully protest and express their positions.
“However, we do not condone actions that interfere with the FERC authorized activities for the AIM Project. The Algonquin pipeline system has been operating safely in the area for more than 60 years,” she said.
Monday’s protest was organized by Resist AIM, a coalition formed to stop the project.
The use of fossil fuels, including natural gas, only contributes to climate change, argued Susan Rubin of Chappaqua, who joined the protest.
“We all know that we have to do everything we can to keep all the fossil fuels in the ground and switch to renewable energy, wind and solar,” Rubin said. “We’re concerned about our children’s future.”
Rhode Island Protests Against AIM Pipeline
And in case you’re still wondering why:
Safety Inspectors Blow Whistle on Spectra!
By Steve Ahlquist
November 30, 2015
Two safety inspectors who worked on Spectra Energy’s proposed methane gas pipeline that will cut through Burrillville, RI, say the company cut corners when it came to project, worker and environmental safety.
“Right now, what they’re hoping to do, is they’re hoping to slam all this through, and then at the end ask for forgiveness,” said one of the former inspectors. “Oops, sorry about that, I didn’t know, let me write you a check. Because once this thing’s turning meter, they’re going to be making millions of dollars a day. It doesn’t matter what your problems are…”
The other added, “We were told to shut the fuck up or quit.”
Both men, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, were subcontracted by Spectra and both were terminated from the project this summer. I was introduced to them through FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas), an environmental group that opposes the project, and have spent time talking with both men by phone as well as reviewing audio interviews and emails provided by FANG.
“Like every other company, Spectra gives a tremendous presentation about their commitment to safety, but their actions lack any kind of resolve. No one ever says, ‘Safety’s #2 here,’” said the first inspector. “At every turn when I made a safety suggestion, I was met with monumental resistance from the company on every level.”
Perhaps suspecting their days are numbered, fossil fuel companies are rushing to build the infrastructure required to keep us dependent on methane or “natural” gas for the next 50 years or more, even as evidence mounts that methane is a major contributor to climate change. This gives lie to the claim that methane will serve as a bridge fuel, something to ease the transition from fossil fuels to green energy sources, as the infrastructure investments being made are long term and permanent. Companies are investing billions laying pipelines, building compressor stations, and constructing energy plants and other infrastructure ahead of industry-wide extinction.
In their rush to build, safety and environmental concerns are being brushed aside, suspect many experts. A recent “Pipeline Safety Trust analysis of federal data,” shows that, “new pipelines are failing at a rate on par with gas transmission lines installed before the 1940s.” Sarah Smith writes that Carl Weimer, director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, told attendees at a National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives annual meeting in Tempe, AZ that, “The new pipelines are failing even worse than the oldest pipelines.”
Though some of the problems may be related to workers learning how to implement the latest technologies, Weimar says, “there’s also some suggestions that we’re trying to put so many new miles of pipeline in the ground so fast that people aren’t doing construction … the way they ought to.”
In the same piece Smith quotes Robert Hall, of the National Transportation Safety Board Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations, who agreed that, “the rapid construction of pipelines in the U.S. is likely a contributing factor to ‘people … out there possibly taking shortcuts or not being as diligent’ as they would be if the pace of construction were less fervent.”
Coming forward to confirm these observations are two former Spectra contractors I’m calling Inspector One and Inspector Two. Both wish to remain anonymous for this piece for personal and professional reasons, though they know that their former bosses may be able to identify them.
Inspector One is a safety contractor who briefly worked for Spectra in the Summer of 2015. His job was to act as the safety inspector for the four compressor stations being built in Burrillville RI, Stony Point NY, Cromwell CT and Chaplain CT. Inspector One claims that safety and the environment are being compromised in the rush to build pipelines.
His job was to document accidents and write reports, correcting behaviors so that accidents will not be repeated. His job is also to be on site and monitor the work, correcting actions that might lead to injuries before they happen. He worked with two other inspectors on his level, and supervised the work of many other onsite inspectors.
“‘Safety Above All Else’ is the slogan, it’s the sticker on our helmets,” he told me. “Instead of talking about what we could do better, and valuing my opinion … what they were doing is they were coaching us, telling us specifically how to circumvent rules.
“First week of being on [the Spectra] job, a guy breaks his leg. Steps out of a trailer that did not have a notice to occupy, steps out, breaks his leg. I wasn’t involved in the process of documenting that accident. I was told, ‘we’ll handle that, we’ve got it under control, don’t worry about it.’ I was told not to write up a report.”
The injuries kept on coming.
“Two weeks before I was let go they had a guy turn an excavator over… with the guy in the cab. How that happens is that you got a guy who doesn’t know the machinery, doesn’t have it rigged properly, doesn’t understand leverage or topography,” said Inspector One. “It’s a pretty big deal when someone turns over a half million dollar machine.”
When contacted, a Spectra spokesperson told me that they have no record of an excavator turnover happening on any of their work sites. I asked if the Spectra system includes subcontractors, and was told they did. When I spoke to Inspector One, he provided more details. “It was the lay down yard in Franklin Ct,” he said. That’s a fab shop where materials are prepared for installation out in the field. The excavator was loading or unloading pipes. “I was told to stay out of it,” he said. “My direct supervisor told me he had it under control.”
Another time, “I had three guys in one day suffer from heat exhaustion.”
Eventually Inspector One’s boss just wanted him to train people to be on site. Before a worker is allowed on site they receive a three hour orientation. Inspector One’s job is to run them through the 90 minute safety training, before they receive their environmental and site specific training. Inspector One suspects that his new focus on training was a way of getting him out of the way, so he wouldn’t be able to report safety violations and slow down the job.
“They were always strategically placing me out of the field when something critical was going on,” says Inspector One, “They started doing work on Sundays, they shouldn’t work on Sundays without me knowing. They had guys working until 11 o’clock at night one night. We get to work at 6:30 in the morning. How can I keep things safe when I work all day and into the night like that? And you don’t even let me know?
“We’ve had guys break their legs, burns, cuts, near misses, dropped objects, slough off in holes, working in standing water in holes, not monitoring spaces, huge violations. Huge violations that anywhere else I’d say ‘you’re gone, you’re gone, you’re gone.’
“I’ve got people working after hours and on weekends to get critical stuff done so that I will not have an opportunity to intervene in it.
“It’s safety above all else until you have a one billion dollar project that’s behind on permits, then its go, let’s go.”
In addition to a lax attitude towards worker safety, Inspector One also alleges some environmental trespasses.
“This is a FERC project, okay? The way we treat the environment is hypercritical, but you got guys pot-shotting deer out of season on our property in New York, and everybody knows it. And they’re throwing them into the back of a truck and driving off with them. Do you know what would happen if that were to be caught? Our whole project would be shut down.”
Spectra does not allow weapons on a work site, says Inspector One, but one worker brought along his bow and arrow, claiming that they were for competitive archery, not hunting. The deer was shot with an arrow, but wasn’t the only imperiled wildlife.
“You know there’s some endangered spotted turtles, I don’t know, I just tell the men don’t touch it. Whatever it is, don’t harass any species, whatever it is, don’t touch it. If there’s a snake that doesn’t disperse on its own leave it alone we’ll get a wrangler out there to deal with it…” says Inspector One, but some among the construction crews didn’t listen. Men were moving snakes or throwing cans to disperse raccoon.
Once Inspector One gets going on the environmental concerns, it’s like a flood gate opened. “I’ve got run off going into goddamn public streams! I got tires not being washed going out onto public roadways. I’m telling them we can’t have this, and if you think I’m a prick, wait until the FERC inspector gets out here… Taking topsoil off the property, to your home to use, that’s not allowed. That soil could be contaminated. Taking metal parts, flanges, elbows, things like that and getting scrap metal money for them so you can buy lunch for your crew that day, it’s not allowed. That stuff could be contaminated with all kinds of cancer causing things that can hurt you, hurt the environment.”
The lack of concern Spectra allegedly showed towards safety and the environment extended to the cultural concerns of Native Americans, maintains Inspector One. “The delaying of our permits was in part due to the ceremonial stones and things like that that are related to the Native American population… I have observed stones moved in New York, but no one has the documentation to say that it is okay. I know where there are ceremonial Indian grounds that have been moved.”
This is where Inspector Two comes in. Before he was let go by Spectra he was an electrical and instrumentation inspector with real concern for the sanctity of sacred spaces from his time serving in the Middle East and his experience as a minister. He confirmed much of Inspector One’s story, saying, for instance, “Spectra neither cares for the public nor the workers. This is a fact. They do not care what happens as long as they flow gas.”
Native American land was clear cut far more than was required for the project, says Inspector Two. “They bulldozed 75 percent just for work space… When the big trucks made their delivery no attempts were made to protect the trees.”
Trees were clear cut for temporary parking and work space says Inspector Two. With planning that could have been avoided.
This isn’t simply an issue of a company cutting corners and taking risks with worker safety, endangered turtles and tribal lands. Inspector One says that the behaviors he’s noted could have catastrophic consequences.
“These pipes have to last underground for at least 50 years,” says Inspector One, “If there’s the smallest mistake in their cathodic protection, that’s what’s going to corrode. All of a sudden you’ve got, even at 800-900 pounds of pressure, doesn’t sound like much, but when you’ve got a 42 inch pipe, traveling that distance and it goes ka-bang, you’re not talking about taking out a block, you’re talking about taking out a large area. You’re talking about a humongous ecological impact, you’re talking about displacing hundreds of families, you’re talking about leveling homes, killing people instantly, I mean, if one of those places were to go up, it’s going to be a bad day.”
In 2011 a cast-iron gas pipe cracked, causing an explosion that killed five people in Allentown, PA. Pipes like those are no longer used. But when work is rushed, construction is sloppy and disaster is possible.
“There’s a reason we do what we do,” said Inspector One, “Every bolt is torqued. I know when you torqued it, I know what torque wrench you used, what model number, when it was calibrated. That’s how serious every flange has to be. Because if one of these points blow up you’re talking about a humongous issue. These guys are making those kind of mistakes. They’re short-cutting things, they’re not inspecting things properly, they’re covering stuff up before an inspector’s had a chance to look at it.
“I have had inspectors that have come up to me in the field and have said to me that there is a pipe buried under ground that was not inspected appropriately. And the reason that it was not excavated and inspected is that it cost too much money.”
All pipeline welds are examined with x-rays to make sure they are up to code. After the weld is x-rayed the inspector waits for the film to come back from the lab. “How is it that you have a pipe already buried before you receive the film?” Inspector One asks, noting that he had a tech “receiving the film (on Tuesday) for a pipe buried last Wednesday.”
Spectra has a “has a checkered history of accidents and violations of federal safety rules in the U.S. and Canada dating back decades,” says Dan Christensen writing in the Miami Herald. “Since 2006, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recorded 25 incidents that caused more than $12 million in property damage along Spectra’s main line — the 9,000-mile Texas Eastern Transmission that connects Texas and the Gulf Coast with big urban markets in the Northeast. The causes ranged from equipment failure and incorrect operations to pipe corrosion.”
SpectraBusters has a long list of links to stories about Spectra’s poor performance record.
Inspector One was let go in August. To this day he has not been told why. One day he realized that his computer privileges had been shut down and his laptop erased remotely. His dismissal affected him economically, personally and professionally.
Meanwhile, the hits keep coming.
As Rhode Island welcomes more and more gas infrastructure into our state, the question must be asked: Is Burrillville, RI next?
These are “large diameter, high pressure, long distance gas pipelines,” says Inspector One, “A failure represents a catastrophic environmental and personal hazard. Just look at situations like Allentown…
FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas) is launching a website, SpectraExposed to store full transcripts of their interviews with the two inspectors.
Susan Van Dolsen’s “Letter of the Week” in the Journal News!
Way to go Susan!!
Why It’s Not Needed
From our friends ‘No Fracked Gas in Mass’ here is a link to information on current capacity and upcoming ‘needs’ in New England:
Surprise! Another “Ware Yard” from the AIM pipeline folks!
Seems like Algonquin just discovered another “Ooooops!” They had completely overlooked the fact that they’ll need an additional 4.6 acres of land for a ware yard and work space in Peekskill!
Of course they’re still assuring us that they’ve got everything under control. Not to worry! No problem! They’ll just add heavy equipment, constant traffic, air pollution and diesel fumes to the property across the street from the Westchester Diner and the Welcher Avenue McDonald’s (see map below).
What a shame they didn’t realize this in time to include it in the environmental review of the project – including the stormwater permits issued by the city. Hope that Peekskill officials will take some time to revisit those permits before the increased runoff starts pouring into our road drains and into the Hudson River!
West Roxbury, Massachusetts Group Resists AIM Construction
Algonquin Seeks OK to Start Pipeline Expansion in
Rockland & Westchester
Three segments from Stony Point to Yorktown, including crossing the Hudson River have been given the go-ahead . . .
For Patch article, click here
Request for Rehearing on the AIM Pipeline Project
On March 3, 2015, 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. It is unacceptable that FERC representatives did not feel it necessary to address the many substantive issues and questions raised. As overseen by FERC, the expansion of the natural gas pipeline is a story of a failed process on multiple levels.
(Click here for more project details)
Since a rehearing must be requested within the 30 day period after the certificate was issued, on April 2, 2015, the rehearing requests were filed. Our members have joined with others, including very engaged residents in four states in a formal FERC proceeding to request a rehearing of the AIM approval.
The Algonquin/Spectra proposal poses a significant potential threat – a gas pipeline rupture and explosion that could compromise a nuclear power plant in the middle of the New York City metro area. These pipelines are known to have catastrophic failures around the country. There is an ongoing federal process that can address and correct pipeline safety issues, but action is needed immediately. The request for a rehearing will make the case that the entire FERC environmental review process needs to be reopened and done properly.
(Click here for more project details)
The FERC Process Must Address Key Issues:
Many significant concerns remain unaddressed, including: the destruction of local parkland, exposure to harmful air and water contaminants, the exposure of schoolchildren and local homeowners to pipeline risks, and, most importantly, the increased risk to the Indian Point nuclear power plant. FERC’s responses to elected officials on these concerns does little more than point to sections of the incomplete Final Environmental Impact Statement and assert that the issues are already addressed.
The FERC Certificate makes clear that neither all of the required environmental studies nor all of the required permits have been issued for the project. Some of these issues will be partially addressed by state agencies, like the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, in their permit process. But other issues, like the Indian Point gas pipeline explosion concerns will never be addressed now that the federal agencies have passed them over – unless a rehearing is granted.
(Click here for more project details)
The Intervenors Are Requesting A Rehearing on the Following Issues:
~ a transparent and fully independent (of the applicant and NRC) study of the risks to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant must be required and reviewed;
~ an independent baseline health assessment of the air emissions that concern local communities must be undertaken;
~ a further analysis of what can be done to reduce risks at schools, businesses, places of worship, parkland, and residential areas must be conducted;
~ further wetland delineation and review of protected species must be carried out;
~ toxicity and public health concerns from pipeline maintenance systems and “pigging stations” must be more fully addressed, particularly for those facilities in residential neighborhoods;
~the numerous, identified gaps in the Final EIS must be addressed, including unresolved issues raised by the Environmental Protection Agency’s comments on March 2, 2015.
(Click here for more project details)
AIM/Indian Point Safety Concerns:
One significant gap in the pipeline application review process illustrates the urgency of the rehearing. The Indian Point nuclear containment structures are built to address specific risks – they primarily deal with limiting the amount of radiation that could be released in the event of a nuclear accident inside the containment dome. Indian Point’s systems outside of the containment structures are not built to withstand an explosion associated with a rupture of a gas pipeline. An explosion and the resulting heat flux could literally melt the on-site steel and aluminum structures that are outside of the containment area, producing a cascading failure affecting the safety and support systems on-site and lead to catastrophic destruction both on and off-site.
The Indian Point safety concerns have been placed on the FERC public record. The failure to properly analyze this important safety issue has been cited by independent experts as not providing the legal analysis that NRC is required to undertake. Therefore, as a matter of law, the FERC record cannot justify its approval of placing a high pressure and high volume gas pipeline in such close proximity to Indian Point.
For all of the above reasons it is crucial that a request for rehearing be filed. You can join with us to support the folks in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York who have been fighting for a proper review of this project and for the safety of our communities.
(Click here for more project details)
To help us in this very important effort, you can click here to Donate