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Environmentalists urge Governor Cuomo to say no to the expansion of another pipeline

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

Opponents of a pipeline expansion that would flow through vast portions of New York want the Cuomo Administration to deny a key permit that could result in a halt to the upgrade.

The New Market Dominion pipeline is one of a dizzying array of fuel pipelines that flow through New York, in many cases taking natural gas from hydrofracking sites in other states to markets in New York and other places.

The pipeline, which is largely regulated by the federal government, is trying to expand its capacity and to build more powerful compressor stations in three sites along its route in the Southern Tier and Central New York.

But opponents says Governor Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation has the power to shut the project down because the pipeline company needs the DEC to sign off on a key water quality certification, as well as three air quality permits for the upgrades to the compressor stations.

Walter Hang, with the Ithaca-based Toxics Targeting , says his group already found instances where the existing pipeline violated state pollution standards, so the state environmental agency should issue a new certification.

“Unfortunately the existing pipeline has already caused enormous water quality violations that were never cleaned up to state standards,” said Hang.

There’s already precedent for the state to reject the water quality permits. Cuomo’s environmental agency earlier this year, on Earth Day, denied a similar water quality certification for the Constitution pipeline, which was to be a newly constructed line stretching across vast sections of Upstate New York.

Hang is one of the leaders of the anti-fracking movement that led to a ban on hydrofracking in New York State in late in 2014. He says he and others are turning up the heat on the Cuomo Administration during an extended public comment period that ended September 12th, writing letters and making phone calls. 

“We’re just hammering away,” said Hang who said Cuomo’s claims as a climate change activist are in jeopardy if he issues the permits.

Hang says his group is seeking a “moratorium” on all fossil fuel project approvals anywhere in New York.

Even though Dominion is not asking for a new pipeline, but instead requesting approval for an upgrade, Lisa Marshall, who lives in Horseheads, in the Southern Tier, says it means a big change. She says the new line would carry up to 112 million cubic feet of gas per day.

“If you can imagine a football field a half a mile into the air, that’s the volume of gas they’re talking about,” Marshall said.

Marshall lives just a few blocks from the Horseheads compressor station. She says 50 homes, two day care centers, a group home for disabled people and many elderly citizens live within half a mile of the site.

“A lot of them are concerned about safety, they’re concerned about the noise, ” Marshall said. “They’re concerned about their property values.”

Marshall says she and other advocates have learned, through the fracking fight, where years of protests eventually led Cuomo to ban the natural gas drilling process, that applying political pressure can work.

“If the governor hears us and feels like there’s enough of us that are upset about this, then maybe he’ll do something,” Marshall said. “That’s our hope.”

A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation says the proposal does not involve building a new pipeline, and instead seeks to “modify an existing compressor station”, and create two new ones.

Spokesman Sean Mahar says the public comment period was already extended to “ensure the public had adequate opportunity” to help the environmental agency in its review. And he says all comments will be “considered prior to making any final determination”. There’s currently no exact timetable on when a decision will be made.  

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