info 01.21.11

A New Gas Pipeline
Hey, What Could Go Wrong?

A new pipeline is being planned to bring natural gas through Jersey City, under the Hudson, and enter Manhattan beneath the West Village. ETA: 2012.

Sound benign? Did you happen to catch the gas explosion in Philadelphia this past Tuesday night? That was a 12" gas pipe. A 30" pipe is planned for New Jersey and New York.

Thirty inches is also the size of the pipeline that caused the San Bruno, California explosion last September. Eight people died, 37 homes were destroyed. Photographs of the immediate aftermath are here. Welding mistake, possibly.

And what kind of example, technological and environmental, has the company that wants to build this pipeline set previously?

Houston-based Spectra Energy has been tracked by, among others, Spectra Energy Watch and the company's record includes the gas leak and emergency shutdown of the Steckman Ridge Compressor Station in 2009 and continued PCB contamination of its Texas Eastern pipeline. PCB production was banned in 1979.

What kind of hazards could a new gas pipeline pose? Besides explosions in densely populated areas (that include chemical plants), there are the toxins frequently released from the pipes, and the possibility of the pipeline becoming a terrorist target. That last isn't far-fetched, either. Recall that Abdul Kadir was convicted last month for plotting to blow up JFK fuel tanks.

Read more about the potential dangers of the proposed pipeline at No Gas Pipeline, which has been way out ahead on this issue on behalf of Jersey City.

Will regulators protect us? Don't hold your breath. FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, reviews all pipeline proposals. As No Gas Pipeline shows, there have been deeply troubling conflicts-of-interest between the agency's Commissioners and the industry they regulate. Some of the newer appointments have been an improvement, but of the pipeline projects FERC reviewed in 2009, 100% were approved.

We've been writing fairly regularly on MUG about the dangers of fracking. Mayor Bloomberg has said about fracking: "The consequences are so severe that it is not a risk that I think we should run. I do not think that we should allow fractured drilling anywhere near our water supply."

The Mayor's position on the pipeline, however, is at odds with his view on fracking since gas from the pipeline will allow the Con Ed plant in Manhattan to use more of that fossil fuel in its mix instead of sustainable alternatives. And drilling in the Marcellus Shale will continue to drive development of new pipelines.

As for safety, the usual foolish and/or dishonest assurances: Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, writing on behalf of the Mayor to FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, conveys the City's "strong support" of the pipeline [PDF]. Goldsmith states, "The evidence is clear that this natural gas pipeline will be safe." Yes, Goldsmith. As safe as the Titanic was unsinkable. Is it really necessary at this late date to point out that human beings have a long history of eating their own words?

Since FERC has no elected officials, the public comment periods hold little sway with them. The only way for citizens to become a part of the process is to become an Intervener. The deadline for that is this coming Wednesday, January 26th. When you get intervener status you have legal standing to challenge FERC rulings in court if that becomes necessary. The process is a bit complicated; if you get stuck, call FERC's hotline 866.208.3676 for help.

New York City has to find new ways to meets its energy needs. This pipeline, however, would be one welding mistake away from a calamity. It must be stopped.

Where can I learn more about fracking? Answer

Travels to Xalapa, Mexico

Ninth Street, Brooklyn

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