By Nancy Cutler

Spectra Energy’s Algonquin pipeline expansion, which passes through Buchanan and near the nuclear power plant there, has raised concerns and won support

The Algonquin natural gas pipeline expansion project that passes through four states — and right by Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan — continues to raise concerns.

Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project replaces an existing line with a 42-inch pipe that would carry more natural gas north from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Locally, new pipe is being placed through Stony Point, under the Hudson River and into Verplanck and Buchanan.

Those who have expressed concern about the AIM plan and its proximity to Indian Point include Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC unsuccessfully sought to stop the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permission for the project, citing the state’s ongoing analysis of the pipeline’s safety risk. A local group, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, or SAPE, formed to fight the pipeline expansion.

Supporters of Spectra’s expansion say the project meets federal safety standards, and say the pipeline work, at its closest point 1,580 feet from the nuclear facility’s protected area fence, doesn’t pose risks.

We asked two people with different positions on the project to share their views:

John Ravitz, executive vice president & chief operating officer of The Business Council of Westchester.
Michael Shank, a Peekskill resident and member of lohud’s Board of Contributors, who teaches sustainable development at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs.

Michael Shank: Pollution from the AIM pipeline, including the venting of carcinogenic benzene, ethylbenzene, and other chemicals, would be problematic for Westchester’s already dismal air quality, which has received an “F” grade from the American Lung Association.

John Ravitz: The transparent and rigorous review of the AIM project has been undertaken by more than 15 federal, state and local regulators. Spectra Energy has made extensive efforts to minimize the impact of the pipeline’s construction.

Shank: The security risk is not worth taking, given how close it is to Indian Point, and the risk of explosion and rupture.

Ravitz: Analysis by both Entergy and the NRC concluded that the existence of the new pipe with additional safety enhancements would pose no marked security risk to the IPEC protected area. Spectra Energy has safely operated pipelines that are located immediately adjacent to the IPEC protected area fence for over 50 years.

Shank: More fracked gas via New York state isn’t consistent with the state’s carbon-cutting goals and commitment to renewable energy.

Ravitz: The demand for natural gas in our region is only growing and projections indicate that this trend will persist for the foreseeable future. We believe natural gas is a “transition fuel” and that the AIM project is necessary to help meet the Northeast’s growing energy needs.