New York City

OPINION: Pipeline endangers Brooklyn

October 3, 2016 By Eric Weltman For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Eric Weltman is a Brooklyn-based organizer with Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit environmental organization. Photo by Andy Katz

Building a fracked-gas pipeline next to an aging nuclear power plant sounds like a recipe for disaster. But that is exactly what is happening in Westchester County, and it puts Brooklyn — and all of New York City — at risk.

The project is known as the Algonquin Incremental Pipeline, or AIM for short. It would transport fracked gas from Pennsylvania through Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam Counties to New England then Canada. From there, it would be exported abroad.

All gas pipelines pose serious hazards. Pipeline explosions on their own can cost lives. Gas pipelines enable fracking, a dangerous method of drilling that contaminates water, pollutes the air, and contributes to climate change. And new pipelines deepen our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, undermining efforts to make the transition to clean, renewable power.

But the AIM pipeline poses a particularly treacherous risk because it is being constructed a mere 105 feet from critical safety structures at the Indian Point nuclear plant. Indian Point is dangerous in its own right: the aging facility is leaking radioactive tritium into the groundwater, operating on expired permits, and positioned on top of two earthquake fault lines.

Given that pipeline explosions, leaks, and fires are commonplace, even for newly constructed pipelines, placing a gas pipeline next to Indian Point is a recipe for disaster. Twenty million people live within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point — to put things in perspective, Central Park is 34 miles away — so an accident could be catastrophic. That’s why Gov. Andrew Cuomo should do everything he can to stop the AIM pipeline.

The project is mired in controversy. The company building the pipeline, Spectra, illegally dug up a wetland after being told by federal regulators they needed a special permit to do so. And the private contractor hired by Spectra to conduct the project’s risk assessment has a financial stake in the pipeline’s approval, calling into question the credibility of their work.

This is why Cuomo must call on President Obama to stop the AIM pipeline. The federal agency charged with overseeing pipelines, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has a bad reputation for rubber-stamping such projects. Cuomo should insist that Obama use his influence over FERC.

The AIM pipeline is scheduled to be operational with the gas flowing in November. Time is growing short to stop a project that would maintain dependence on dirty fossil fuels while endangering the lives of millions of people. The safety of Brooklyn, and dozens of communities throughout the region, hinges on political leaders like Cuomo taking action to stop the AIM pipeline.

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