Comments

Sample comments for NYSDEC Title V Air and Water Permits

 

See below for sample comments and talking points on the following topics that you can copy/paste or build upon for your comments to the DEC:

Emissions and Air Quality

Cumulative Impacts of the AIM project

Contamination Risk from PCBs and Radioactive Waste

Environmental Justice

Please submit a written comment by mail, email, or fax by Feb. 27, 2015 to:

Michael T. Higgins, Project Manager
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-1750
Phone: (518) 402-9179
Fax: (518) 402-9168
E-mail: AIMProject@dec.ny.gov

For Spectra Energy Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM)
Pipeline and compressor stations expansion
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Docket # CP14-96-000

 

 

EMISSIONS AND AIR QUALITY

Talking Points #1

  • Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties are already non-attainment areas in air quality for ground level ozone and particulate matter, according to the EPA, which means our area is already not meeting federal standards for air quality.
  • Baseline air testing for this region is not planned, but is needed. It should be funded by Spectra Energy and performed by an independent expert acceptable to public officials, advocates and the general public, as well as to Spectra Energy.
  • Emission of air pollutants is dramatically underestimated in FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which also does not address cumulative effects on air quality. Cumulative effects from compressor stations, metering & regulating stations and other infrastructure from this entire project, other pipeline projects, and other sources of air emissions in the region are not considered in short and long-term cumulative impacts which should be conducted before permits are issued. Each component is evaluated separately, giving a false view of the impact on air quality.
  • Spectra’s Metering and Regulating Station design is not yet complete, as documented in FERC’s DEIS, but in it, FERC states that pollutants would not violate the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The DEIS could not have addressed the unknown.
  • Compressor stations and other infrastructure, such as Metering and Regulating Stations release thousands of tons of toxins annually. See attached sheet for Toxic Emission data and their Health Effects.
  • Blowdowns (venting of materials in the pipeline, compressor stations and metering stations)
    • Blowdowns are done both by business design for maintenance and accidentally.
    • Pipelines contain hazardous materials that enter the air in blowdowns. These materials include small particles of radioactive polonium and radioactive lead, which can cause serious illness, including lung cancer. Pipelines also contain PCBs.
    • Compressor station and metering station blowdowns release increased levels of toxins into the air, which can be dangerous for people to breathe, especially children, the elderly and immune-compromised people.
    • Mitigation equipment should be installed on emission releasing equipment, including but not limited to vapor recovery units, methane capturing equipment, zero emission dehydrators. Electric compressor engines should be used to replace high emission producing gas turbines.
    • No systematic method of informing the public of these dangerous emissions is currently in place. This is unacceptable and constitutes a public health risk. A system must be established to alert public officials of planned blowdowns and accidental blowdowns within a half hour, so that the public can be informed and take protective measures. 
  • Global warming
    • Methane gas is known to leak from pipelines and is routinely emitted by compressor stations and in extra quantity by blowdowns. This contributes to global warming as methane gas is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.
    • A huge amount of carbon dioxide is emitted from compressor stations annually, also contributing to global warming. See next page on Toxins to be Emitted for details.

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Talking Points #2

Toxins to be Emittedby Compressor Stations and their Health Effects, as per their September 29, 2014 Emissions Charts

  • Stony Point and Southeast Compressor stations are projected to emit the following toxins in significantly increased amounts from pre-project actual emissions reported by Spectra Energy. The September 2014 figures are also significantly increased from Spectra’s first post-project projected actual emissions reported in their first emissions charts in October/November 2013. 
  • Volatile Organic Compounds – includes known carcinogens such as benzene aa well as suspected carcinogens. Long-term exposure can also cause damage to liver, kidneys, and central nervous system
    • Stony Point Projected emissions   73 tons per year (tpy)
    • Southeast – Projected emissions   76 tons per year (tpy)
  • Nitrogen Oxide – Long-term exposure can cause serious respiratory problems, damage to lungs
    • Stony Point Projected emissions     90 tons per year (tpy)
    • Southeast – Projected emissions   132 tons per year (tpy)
  • Carbon Dioxide –Exposure to concentration of 10% or more can cause death, unconsciousness or convulsions. May damage developing fetus. Lower concentrations –vision damage, central nervous system injury, elevated blood pressure, memory loss, shortness of breath etc.
    • Stony Point Projected emissions   313, 834 tons per year (tpy)
    • Southeast – Projected emissions   282,326 tons per year (tpy)
  • Carbon Monoxide -When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the poison replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream. Your heart, brain, and body will become starved of oxygen. Symptoms vary from person to person. Those at high risk include young children, the elderly, persons with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, and smokers. Carbon monoxide can harm a fetus (unborn baby still in the womb). Some symptoms include respiratory failure, hypotension, renal failure, cardiac ischemia and amnesia
    • Stony Point Projected emissions   104 tons per year (tpy)
    • Southeast – Projected emissions   218 tons per year (tpy)

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Talking Points #3

Additional tonnage of other toxins emitted each year from this project includes Sulfur Dioxide, Formaldehyde,and Particulate Matter 10 and 2.5. Particulate matter can get into the lungs and even the bloodstream. Lancet, England’s foremost medical journal recently published a study that linked particulate matter 10 and 2.5with increased risk for developing lung cancer. Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen, and sulfur dioxide is linked with serious respiratory illness and aggravation of existing heart disease.

Nitrogen Oxides and other hydrocarbons combine with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight to form ground-level ozone. Ozone pollution poses serious public health threat and is linked to respiratory damage including exacerbation of asthma, COPD, and pulmonary inflammation. It is also linked to cardiovascular disease (strokes, heart attacks, congestive heart failure), neurological, reproductive and developmental damage and premature death.

Spectra is able to exceed EPA thresholds by buying credits in other areas where emissions are under the threshold, but we in this region are still breathing this toxic air.

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Emissions Sample Comment #1

Emissions Reduction Credits, necessary health and safety assessments

When compressor station emissions are above the EPA safe level thresholds, industry is nonetheless allowed to operate by using “Emissions Reduction Credits (ERC)” from other parts of the country where infrastructure emissions are below thresholds. Industry can be given approval to pollute our air and impact our health by applying these credits in the categories of toxic, dangerous chemicals that are above thresholds. This practice is being done with the present very high emissions from the Stony Point and Southeast compressor stations. This is a grossly unfair practice and should be abolished. Citizens are subjected to breathing air unfit for human consumption.

Rockland, Westchester and Fairfield counties are ranked by EPA as being a Non-Attainment area in air quality. The American Lung Association also ranks the three counties with an F in ozone and particulate matter. Compressor emissions emit fine particulate matter injurious to lung function. Nitrogen oxide combine with Volatile Organic Compounds emissions, heat and sunlight to form ozone. Populations most at risk are children, the elderly, pulmonary, cardiovascular and other health-compromised individuals. Exacerbations can be fatal. Temperature inversions when emissions hug the ground and wind direction from the compressor station are particularly dangerous.

Rockland, Westchester and Putnam Counties legislatures and several Westchester and Putnam towns passed Resolutions calling upon Involved Agencies – of which NYS DEC is an important one – that before considering or granting approval permits, assessments be conducted in safety and health. An Indian Point risk assessment, continuous baseline air testing, cumulative impacts, and a health review must be conducted in a transparent, comprehensive manner by independent contractors approved by the public, elected officials and industry.

Spectra and FERC refused to do these assessments. In spite of industry pressure to hurry the approval process, will NYS DEC stand by its NYS citizens in delaying issuance of your Title V permit while these comprehensive assessments are conducted?  We count on DEC to protect us!

Recently the NYS Department of Health, NYS DEC and Governor Cuomo determined that the health risks of fracking are too great to allow fracking in New York State. A similar health review must be conducted on the same toxic air emissions from compressor stations, meter & regulating stations, valves and other parts of infrastructure. Cumulative short and long-term impacts of the entire AIM project and other regional sources of air pollution also must be conducted to get an accurate analysis of air quality and health impacts.

We call upon the NYSDEC to honor the tri-county legislative call for health and risk assessments to protect the public health and safety and use its power to implement the Clean Air Act to deny the permits until these assessments are completed and additional hearings are held. New Yorkers must not be made a sacrifice population for corporate profit.

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Emissions Sample Comment #2

Methane emissions and fugitive emissions from gas infrastructure

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSCEC) should reject the Title V permits to expand the Southeast and Stony Point compressor stations because the Spectra AIM project will undermine efforts in New York State to promote renewable energy.  The New York Attorney General’s office, in comments to FERC, stated “The Algonquin Project will use and transport natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that comprises nearly nine percent of U.S. GHG emissions.”[1]  Furthermore, “The Algonquin project will be a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in the generation of a maximum of 1,020,133 tons of CO2e per year.” [2]

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and scientists from Cornell University have published peer-reviewed studies documenting the impact of methane as a potent greenhouse gas that contributes dramatically to climate change. The IPCC stated that methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 over a 20- year timeframe.

There are methane leaks throughout the entire “natural” gas transmission process, including leaks from wellpads, pipelines, compressor stations, metering & regulating stations and other equipment, during construction, operations, maintenance and distribution. Spectra Energy has a poor track record for managing its fugitive methane emissions. The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) levied a $134,500 fine because Spectra violated its own Standard Operating Procedures for valve inspection and maintenance. [3]

The NYSDEC has been delegated the authority to implement the EPA’s Clean Air Act and the Agency must look at energy policy and consequences for the State when permitting major sources of GHG emissions. Therefore, the DEC should deny the permits for the Southeast and Stony Point compressor station expansions.

[1] Climate Action Plan: Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, March 2014, available at www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/03/28/strategy-cut-methan-emissions

[2] State of New York, Office of the Attorney General, Comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Draft Environmental Impact Statement p.4-236, 9/29/14, p.12.

[3] U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Office of Pipeline Safety, CPF No. 4-2012-1009, http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/pv_obj_cache/pv_obj_id_4555279B07507EA7A114AC79C8C3B32231D10000/filename/420121009_Final%20Order_12212012.pdf

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Emissions Sample Comment #3

Delivered by Larysa Dyrszka, MD at the Stony Point DEC hearing Jan 2015

As a physician I would like to thank the NYS Dept of Env Conservation for your support of the Health Commissioner’s findings that the potential health and environmental impacts are too great to allow fracking to proceed in the great State of New York at this time.

Acting DOH Commissioner Zucker pointed out that we need more studies regarding the long-term safety of hydraulic fracturing. So it is with the infrastructure transporting and processing the gas.

And, as with fracking, what we know of the health impacts from gas infrastructure is of concern.

The volume of emissions from compressor stations is significant. The 2013 RAND study of air-quality damages in Pennsylvania has determined that 60–75 % of the estimated damages (most due to health problems) result from compressor station activities.

Dr Allan Robinson of the Carnegie Mellon University estimates that the greatest nitrogen oxide and VOC emissions in Pennsylvania will be from compressor stations by the year 2020.

The AIM project would increase compressor station horsepower and would produce about 275,000 to 300,000 TPY of air pollutants.

The New York Attorney General’s office stated that the project will result in 1,020,133 tons CO2e (equivalents) per year.

Yet, the permits state that the DEC would be allowing these very large GHG increases above 6 NYCRR Part 231-13 significant threshold of 75,000 tpy, based on a recent Supreme Court decision.

This seems to be directly counter to Governor Cuomo’s statement that it is our responsibility to develop an alternative … for safe, clean economic development.

In yesterday’s State of the State address, Governor Cuomo unveiled plans to invest $20 million to protect farmland in the Hudson Valley. We know from peer-reviewed literature that Increases in ozone negatively impacts agricultural yield, and this project area is already in non-attainment with ozone,   even without the increases.

In addition to the increased GHGases and ozone health ramifications, the tons of other pollutants, including formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), benzene, styrene, toluene, xylene, hexane, acetone, and carbon tetrachloride will seep into the soil and the regional watersheds.

The logic of allowing this increase escapes me, and is perhaps in direct conflict with Governor Cuomo’s policy.

Allow me to call attention to regulation 6 NYCRR 211.1 which “requires that no person shall cause or allow emissions of air contaminants to the outdoor atmosphere of such quantity, characteristic or duration which are injurious to human, plant or animal life or to property, or which unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.”

These emissions, and with the excessive noise and odors, and the health impacts, because they are injurious to human, plant and animal life, and to property, and they interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of people’s lives and their property, should be a reason to deny the permits.

Another reason that the State should deny this permit application is on the basis that there is material information which is the potential for significant health impacts.

In addition, the compilation and reporting of air emissions is likely incomplete, and therefore inaccurate. Air emission data should be collected continuously, as spikes occur and these isolated spikes can cause exacerbations of lung disease. A significant number of health impacts seem to occur during periods of excess emissions, such as with malfunctions, blowdowns, start-up and shutdown activities.

Further, it is vital that there is a plan for the information about health impacts to be collected in a timely and comprehensive manner. Currently there is no mechanism in place for this. Therefore the Department must respond how this monitoring and surveillance of residents is to be accomplished.

Until continuous air monitoring, and health impact monitoring and surveillance are in place, and until public health is adequately protected, the NYS DEC permit for the AIM Project must be denied.

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Emissions Sample Comment #4

Testimony of Nadia Steinzor, Eastern Program Coordinator, Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, January 21, 2015
1612 K St., NW, Suite 808
Washington, D.C. 20006
www.earthworksaction.org
202-887-1872, ext. 109
nsteinzor@earthworksaction.org

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening. Founded in 1988, Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development. I’m a lifelong New Yorker and currently reside in Woodstock in Ulster County.

Last month, New York made the bold decision to prohibit shale gas production because of concerns for health and the environment—which are increasingly supported by scientific research and realities on the ground nationwide.[1]

I ask you to heed these concerns when deciding whether to issue air permits for the Stony Point and Southeast Compressor Stations. The processing and transportation of gas demands equal caution as gas production, as it also results in pollution and negative health impacts.

Spectra Energy has submitted maximum emission estimates for pollutants that are 2.5-4 times the minimum—providing considerable “wiggle room” for the operator. A 2013 study by the RAND Corporation found that when compressor stations operate below capacity, they fall at the lower end of estimated emissions—but whenever they don’t, actual emissions are higher than estimates declared in permit applications.[2] In addition, more than half of the total costs of air quality damage from shale gas operations in Pennsylvania could be attributed directly to compressor stations.[3]

At compressor stations in Pennsylvania where Earthworks and others have conducted air testing, far lower levels of hazardous air pollutants have been emitted than the estimates provided by Spectra Energy for the Stony Point and Southeast facilities, which are much larger.[4]

Yet for years, residents living near those compressor stations have experienced changes in their health consistent with exposure to the detected pollutants, including dizziness, headaches, nosebleeds, and neurological damage.[5]

In addition, the monitoring requirements in the draft Title V permits will do little to protect the health of nearby residents. Reporting every one, two, or three years, or just once during the lifetime of the permit, might be convenient for Spectra Energy, and for the DEC.

But in reality, short-term events during blowdowns and maintenance can release large volumes of gas directly to the atmosphere. Indeed, emerging environmental health research confirms that intense, episodic air emission events can cause health impacts that occur immediately or in as little as 1-2 hours.[6]

As sources of nitrogen oxides and VOCs, compressor stations contribute to the formation of ozone, which can impair breathing and permanently damage lungs. The Stony Point and Southeast compressors would be in areas already classified as “non-attainment” for federal ozone standards. It is also alarming that DEC has dismissed the increased greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the proposed compressor stations—thus allowing Spectra to avoid requirements for best available emission control technology.

The draft permits for Stony Point and Southeast represent a very low bar for the protection of New York’s air quality. They directly contradict climate change and pollution mitigation goals in New York’s draft Energy Plan. They run counter to new US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules for oil and gas emissions controls. They would make it harder for New York to meet proposed reductions in ozone and new methane and VOC control rules being proposed by the EPA.

DEC can, and must, reach beyond the minimal statutory requirements in reviewing air quality permit applications. You can require baseline air testing before modifications are made to the compressor stations. You can require continuous air monitoring at the sites. You can require steps being taken in Pennsylvania and other states to control emissions at compressor stations, such as capturing blowdown gas and additional leak detection systems. You can also make clear that the AIM pipeline expansion is the wrong kind of energy decision for New York.

As the oil and gas industry expands, public health and the climate are changing. DEC’s approach to permitting must also change.

[1] Concerned Health Professionals of New York. Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction). 2014. http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/

[2] Aviva Litovitz, Aimee Curtright, Shmuel Abramzon, et al., “Estimation of regional air-quality damages from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania.” Environmental Research Letters, January 31, 2013.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Earthworks, Blackout in the Gas Patch: How Pennsylvanians are Kept in the Dark on Health and Enforcement. 2014. http://blackout.earthworksaction.org.

[5] See Earthworks. Gas Patch Roulette: How shale gas development risks public health in Pennsylvania. 2012. http://health.earthworksaction.org.

[6] David Brown, Beth Weinberger, Celia Lewis, and Heather Bonaparte. “Understanding exposure from natural gas drilling puts current air standards to the test.” Reviews on Environmental Health, March 2014.

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CUMULATIVE IMPACTS

Cumulative Effect- Statement 1

There are at least 17 new pipelines and/or pipeline expansions in the works in New York State. If approved, many thousands of trees, some a hundred years old, will be cut down and will in most instances be replaced with grass only. Many wetlands and other water bodies will be crossed by these pipelines and severely impacted. Life in many forms will be destroyed.

Consequences of these actions are the severe degradation of the current good quality NYS water and destruction of wildlife habitats and natural resources. Pipelines leak, trees reduce storm water pollution, and wetlands filter and clean the water. Therefore, protection of our water through our natural resources will be severely diminished, while the entrance of pollutants into our water would be much more likely. New York could transform from a state with a healthy water supply to a state with water problems.

Cumulatively, these pipelines could create a huge water pollution issue for our state.

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Cumulative Effect – Statement 2

At least 17 new pipelines and/or pipeline expansions are proposed or operating in New York State.  Pipelines have multiple compressor stations as part of their infrastructure. Each compressor station emits hundreds of thousands of tons of toxins each year. Since each pipeline requires multiple compressor stations, cumulatively they will emit millions of additional tons of toxins into our air. Some areas in our region are already designated as non-attainment zone for air quality standards and already exceed thresholds for ground-level ozone and particulate matter. These air pollutants will be further increased by pipeline expansions and their infrastructure. Excess ground-level ozone is a health problem and also impedes crop growth.

Pipelines and compressor stations are also vented to relieve pressure and sometimes vent accidentally. The large amount of additional toxins from these many additional pipeline operations will significantly worsen the air quality in the state. It is also significant to note that children are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of this pollution.

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Cumulative Effect – Statement 3

Pigging stations, which are often located near residential areas, clean out debris in the pipelines, and are a health and environmental threat. Many of the New York pipelines, including AIM, carry gas from Marcellus shale which  is known to have high levels of radon. Radon degrades in the pipes into radioactive materials – radioactive polonium and radioactive lead. In addition, AIM and other pipelines contain cancer-causing PCBs. Each of the 17 new or expanded pipelines will probably have at least 2 pigging stations located in our state, which means there will be radioactive sites in 34 NYS locations.

Pigging stations sometimes vent these radioactive and carcinogenic materials into the air which creates a hazard for nearby residents and wildlife and also can be carried to further locations via wind. Radioactive materials from pigging stations can also land on soil and water and leach into aquifers.

Cumulatively, pipeline pigging stations are a huge pollutant issue for the state. They could, along with pipeline  construction and compressor station toxins, take our state from a healthy place to live to an unhealthy one.

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Cumulative Effect – Statement 4

Need for continuous air monitoring and more inclusive cumulative impacts;

Pipeline oversizing, segmentation and less efficient horsepower

Current protocols used for evaluating compliance with ambient air standards do not sufficiently determine the intensity, frequency or durations of the actual human exposures to the mixtures of toxic substances released regularly at gas infrastructure sites including compressor stations. Air measures can significantly underestimate actual exposures since they are not continuous monitoring measures. Reference standards do not accurately determine health risk because they do not fully consider the potential synergistic combinations of toxic air emissions, local weather conditions including air inversions, and toxic emissions from planned and unplanned compressor station blowdowns.

The Southeast Compressor Station in Putnam County and the Stony Point Compressor Station in Rockland County are only 26 miles apart. However, their cumulative impacts are not evaluated.  Other components of the AIM project which also emit huge quantities of toxic pollutants including metering and regulating stations, valves, and pipelines in the same vicinity are not considered. Other infrastructure and major sources of air pollution in the same region are also excluded from consideration e.g. the Wheelabrator in the Town of Cortlandt, which holds a Title V air permit, and is only 5 miles from the Stony Point compressor station and 22 miles from Southeast compressor station.

The concerns regarding significantly increased toxic emissions from proposed expansion of Southeast and Stony Point compressor stations in a non-attainment region for air quality standards which already exceed thresholds for particulate matter and ground level ozone are further amplified by comments to FERC from Mr. Richard Kuprewicz, an engineer and pipeline expert. His findings indicate that the AIM Project is clearly oversized and unwarranted, and is only a partial step toward a more system-wide pipeline expansion within the state of New York. The AIM project appears to be either an unjustified pipeline expansion or a segmentation of a larger, system-wide expansion.

His findings also indicate that the AIM project is substituting quicker-to-install compressor horsepower which may be a quick attempt to avoid a proper environmental review and introduces a substantial loss of pipeline system efficiency from wasted horsepower and subsequent increased air pollution emissions at expanded compressors.

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CONTAMINATION RISK

Sample Comment #1- Pipe removal

It is established in peer-reviewed, published, scientific literature that material in natural gas pipelines, known as black powder, is contaminated with the radioactive decay products of Radon (Polonium and Lead) and poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), all known carcinogens. The Algonquin pipeline has been in operation in Westchester for over 50 years accumulating these carcinogens. In 1989 Spectra was fined $15 million for improper disposal of PCBs at 89 sites along the company’s pipeline running from Texas to New Jersey. When the fine was levied, it was the largest federal fine EVER for an environmental violation. This is the company that wants to dig up over 20 miles of contaminated pipe in New York State.

At a public meeting with the Village of Buchanan in late 2014, Regional Project Manager Jim Luskay was quoted on the record unable to answer questions regarding the make up of the debris within the pipes, when or whether it would be tested for radioactivity or PCBs, how it would be removed if contaminated, or how it would be transported, other than to say they plan to clean out removed pipes with compressed nitrogen and vent the debris into the air. Given their past record-breaking fines for PCB contamination this is disconcerting for residents along the pipeline. Mishandling of these materials could result in contamination of air, water, and soil along the pipeline route.

The magnitude of this construction projects rivals that of the Tappan Zee Bridge, but will be conducted within 50 ft of hundreds of homes, 450 ft from Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School, etc. Spectra intends to construct the AIM portion in 2015 and 2016. They intend to return and construct the Atlantic Bridge portion in 2017. They have yet to reveal their intentions for Access Northeast, a project that they indicate will enlarge multiple pipelines. That means at minimum New York is facing 3 years of constant construction in residential areas for replacement of miles and miles of contaminated pipe which will then be trucked across the state.  I hope the DEC will consider the cumulative impacts of all of these projects.

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Sample Comment #2 – Pigging stations

It is established in peer-reviewed, published, scientific literature that material in natural gas pipelines, known as black powder, is contaminated with the radioactive decay products of Radon (Polonium and Lead) and poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), all known carcinogens. The Algonquin pipeline has been in operation in Westchester for over 50 years accumulating these carcinogens. In 1989 Spectra was fined $15 million for improper disposal of PCBs at 89 sites along the company’s pipeline running from Texas to New Jersey. When the fine was levied, it was the largest federal fine EVER for an environmental violation.

At a public meeting with the Village of Buchanan in late 2014 Regional Project Manager Jim Luskay was quoted on the record unable to answer questions regarding the make up of the debris within the pipes, when or whether it would be tested for radioactivity or PCBs, how it would be removed if contaminated, or how it would be transported, other than to say they plan to clean out removed pipes with compressed nitrogen and vent the debris into the air.

New York will be getting several new pigging stations in residential areas. How will this radioactive, PCB-contaminated hazardous material be handled? How does the DEC plan to ensure it does not contaminate the air, soil, and water in the impacted communities?

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Sample Comment #3 – Radioactivity

Comment submitted by Paul Moskowitz, PhD Jan 30, 2015

Spectra has not dealt with the issue of radon decay products that accumulate in the pipeline.  These deposits will be embedded in the “black powder” corrosion, which is removed by filters at compressor stations and at “pigging” facilities.  There is a pigging station planned for Stony Street in Yorktown.

There is a serious concern with radioactivity. Uranium in the Marcellus shale, where the natural gas originates, decays into radium. The radium then decays into radon gas, which is carried down the pipe with the natural gas.  This is the same radon that we check our houses for. If we detect radon gas in our basements, we can install ventilation. The pipeline is different.  When the radon gas decays, its decay products build up on the inside of the pipe.  These are radioactive lead-210 (22 year half life) and polonium-210 (138 day half life).

The pipeline confines and concentrates the radioactive decay products. The radioactive lead and polonium residues are embedded in the black powder. When the black powder is cleaned out, either by filters at the compressor stations or at pigging stations, the radioactive decay products that are embedded in it are also removed.  The powder consists of one-micron size particles which provide a perfect medium for dispersing the radioactive material.

If we breathe or ingest the radioactive lead or polonium, we risk cancer. There is no safe amount. I do not think that we should expose ourselves to this risk of this material becoming airborne or being washed into the water supply of the Croton system.

Pigging for the cleaning of gas pipelines may be done every six months to one year. Tons of material can be removed at one time. (Reference 1) In Ref 1, the authors say: “All aforementioned pigging operations removed a combined total of 11,620 kg of black powder.” This is 12.8 tons.  The pigging operation is an industrial facility, which should not be placed in a populated area.

The material inside the pipeline and the material removed at compressor stations and pigging station should be analyzed by an independent lab.  If there is radon in the pipeline, as Spectra admits, there will be radioactive lead-210 and polonium-210 decay products in the residue.  (Reference 2).

Reference 1. Tsochatzidis, Nikolaos A., and Konstantinos E. Maroulis. “Methods help remove black powder from gas pipelines.” Oil and Gas Journal 105.10 (2007): pp. 52-60.

Reference 2. Godoy, José Marcus, et al. “210Pb content in natural gas pipeline residues (“black-powder”) and its correlation with the chemical composition.” Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 83.1 (2005): pp. 101-111.

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ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Environmental Justice – Sample Comment #1

In December 2010 the City of Peekskill, in conjunction with Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and Citizens for Equal Environmental Protection conducted an Environmental Justice Inventory supported and funded by NYS DEC.

The inventory found

  • Peekskill has a population of approximately 25,000, with the majority of its population being African American or Latino.
  • Neighborhoods within a 12.5-mile radius of downtown Peekskill are home to at least 2 hazardous waste handlers, 7 hazardous waste facilities, 19 solid waste facilities, 27 major and minor air polluters, 87 industrial surface water sites, 20 municipal surface water sites, 15 toxic release facilities, 47 hazardous waste handlers, and 23 toxic release sites. The majority of the toxic release sites, hazardous waste, solid waste facilities and wastewater facilities are located in predominantly African-American communities.
  • Health data comparing Peekskill to surrounding communities indicate that Peekskill has unusually high rates of asthma, including emergency room visits and hospitalizations, respiratory cancers, death due to cardiovascular disease, and high incidents of low birth weight.

The study recommended:

  • Advocating and allowing for the preservation and restoration of natural landscape features;
  • Utilizing Green Infrastructure to reduce and manage stormwater flow and improve water quality;
  • Meeting with area industrial and other facilities that are sources of pollution to better understand what control measure are already in place or what more could be done to further mitigate discharges, emissions or releases that would reduce pollution burdens on the Peekskill community

The AIM project goes against all of these recommendations. Firstly, communities have not been consulted by the relevant permitting agencies regarding the impact this project will have.

AIM would destroy acres of green space including critical wetlands in Dickey Brook and Blue Mountain Reservation.

This pipeline is not Green infrastructure. The scale of this project is immense. From the expansion of the Stony Point Compressor Station to the introduction of a new pigging station near the border with Buchanan, the expansion of the Metering & Regulating Station on the border of Peekskill, the removal of old pipeline contaminated with PCBs and radioactive hazardous materials, the massive construction, the heavy machinery, the traffic, etc., there is no conceivable way this will improve air, water, or soil quality in Peekskill.

In addition to removal of contaminated pipe, Spectra is planning a pigging station to remove radioactive hazardous waste and PCBs that accumulate in the pipeline on the border of Peekskill. Spectra has been fined $15million by the EPA for contaminating 89 sites along one of their pipelines with PCBs. Is Peekskill going to be the next victim?

The conclusion that this project has no adverse health effects is scientifically unfounded, particularly in the absence of an independent health impact assessment. In the ENB NYSDEC notice about these hearings it states “that no potential adverse environmental impacts related to the proposed action are likely to affect potential environmental justice areas.” What is the basis for this conclusion? Within the 12.5 mile radius of Downtown Peekskill noted in the inventory, this project will add a massively expanded compressor station, 2 pigging stations, 2 expanded Metering & Regulating stations, not to mention 3 years of heavy construction for removal of contaminated pipeline.

Communities have not been consulted. Peekskill residents are already feeling the health impacts of pollution in higher asthma rates, ER visits, respiratory cancers- enumerated in a study funded by this agency! How is it Environmental Justice that Spectra can earn ‘credits’ in Maine and Virginia to exceed emissions that we breathe here in Peekskill? Where is the justice in that?

Will blowdowns and emissions change when the pipeline is stepping up or down from 42 to 26 or vice versa? Are the estimates just modeled on the equipment and not taking into account the planned and accidental blowdowns that will inevitably occur?

Why are so many of Spectra’s emissions data only estimates? Where are the baseline measurements?  How is it acceptable to have these emissions listed at Tons Per Year? That is of no use for those of us who have to breath the air during a blowdown. During a planned or accidental blowdown, how high do these emissions get and over how short of a time period? Why is this information not considered relevant? Where is the independent health impact assessment that will tell us just how bad it will get for those of us living downwind of these compressor stations?! It is unfathomable that there is no health impact from a project that currently emits pollution at a magnitude of tons per year and is proposed to carry 300% the current capacity. Why is the burden of proof on the citizens of Peekskill when this information is readily available in the peer reviewed scientific literature.

The science is clear that the types of emissions from compressor and Metering & Regulating stations (VOCs, particulate matter, ground level ozone, benzenes, etc) have negative health impacts.  The contaminants that will be unearthed by the pipeline removal include proven carcinogens. Spectra has received an unprecedented fine for PCB contamination in the past. A massive expansion of this pipeline, to increase capacity by 300% cannot be shrugged off. When this pipeline went in 50+ years ago, these health effects were not understood, studied, documented. In 50 years the science has advanced, we know what is happening. Peekskill deserves Environmental Justice. We cannot continue to carry the burden of this infrastructure. The principle of Environmental Justice demands that impacted communities have a say in these types of projects. I speak for my friends, family, and neighbors in Peekskill when I say that we do not want this project. Our health and well-being cannot be sacrificed for Spectra’s profits. The principle and the law regarding Environmental Justice demand your consideration during this process. Our lives are on the line.

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