Environmental activists hand delivered 51,000 petitions to Governor Cuomo’s New York City office Friday demanding he deny legal permits to a fracked-gas pipeline they say poses a threat to state residents.
Members of Resist Spectra, a grassroots organization that opposes the construction of three pipelines in New York state by Houston-based Spectra Energy, now part of Enbridge Inc, want the governor to veto the 401 Water Quality Certificate needed for its proposed Atlantic Bridge pipeline to go ahead.
Around 40 activists gathered at the governor’s office on Third Avenue, Manhattan, to deliver the petitions, which were packed into decorated boxes that read “Stop Spectra.” The crowd also sang songs and heard speeches from the rally’s organizers.
“The action is to continue to put the pressure of Governor Cuomo, because he could have some influence on whether the follow-on permits are approved or not,” says Fred Gillen Jr, a 48-year-old musician and recording engineer who attended the rally. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Construction of the Atlantic Bridge, which will extend from Yorktown to Somers, is slated for November 2017. Federal regulators approved the project in January, but the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is yet to rule on the requisite water permits.
Activists and local residents say the pipeline will contaminate waterways and wetlands, increase air pollution, toxify the Hudson River, and threaten local communities.
The Atlantic Bridge is one of three pipelines that make up Spectra’s Algonquin project, which activists say were illegally segmented to avoid a full environmental impact study. The pipelines will ferry fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New England.
The first pipeline – the Algonquin Incremental Market – began operating in January. The high-pressure, high-volume line runs close to the ageing Indian Point nuclear plant, putting the lives of 20 million New Yorkers at risk.
“The footprint of [the pipeline] is extremely invasive and is 105 feet away from the back-up generators of Indian Point. That’s the obvious safety concern. There is a pipeline explosion every day – and those are the reported ones. With that kind of record, to have it this close to a nuclear plant, this close to New York City, a lot of people can’t wrap their head around that,” says Gillen, who lives five miles from Indian Point in Westchester County.
“Once I heard about it, it was a no-brainer. I said this is really the area I want to get involved in because I’m right here. I think the more local people get involved the more power we have,” he adds.
In February 2016, Governor Cuomo directed state agencies to issue a letter to federal regulators to halt approval on the Algonquin project until a comprehensive safety review could be completed. A year on, the assessment is still pending and construction on the pipelines continue.
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