Critics hit feds over Mohawk Valley natural gas pipeline study

Albany Times Union   By Brian Nearing

Published 9:07 pm, Wednesday, October 21, 2015   

Opponents of a natural gas pipeline expansion that includes the Mohawk Valley on Wednesday blasted as inadequate a federal environmental review, which found no significant potential health risks along the pipeline route, but was silent on how the gas might be exported from the U.S.

On Tuesday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also found no significant environmental issues with plans by Dominion Transmission Inc. to expand its 200-mile pipeline in New York to handle natural gas from the fracking fields of northern Pennsylvania.

The New Market project calls for expansion of an existing compressor station in Minden, Montgomery County, at the junction of the 416-mile Iroquois gas pipeline, which last month also came under the control of parent company Dominion Resources.

Running between the Canadian border and New York City, the Iroquois brings gas south from Canada to the U.S. However, two years ago its owners told federal regulators that they wanted to reverse the flow so gas could be shipped to Canada for export.

Announced in June 2014, Dominion's plans for New Market call for connecting it to Iroquois at Minden, where a compressor station would push through more gas.

"This is all about helping the gas industry profit by depleting America's reserves as fast as possible while we suffer the consequences," said Jim Haskins, a Minden resident. "The cumulative impacts relating to how Dominion's project interacts with other gas infrastructure proposed in the Northeast are being completely swept under the rug."

Pipeline opponents called on New York to require a more detailed environmental review as part of state water and air quality permits required for New Market. Resolutions against the project have been adopted by Otsego, Canajoharie, Montgomery County, Fort Plain and Sharon Springs.

Fort Plain trustee Bob Perry said there was "no evidence that the federal government gave our concerns or recommendation any serious consideration. The disregard for people that we represent ... is shocking."

The state Department of Environmental Conservation offered no comment on the FERC ruling, which does not mention New Market's potential role in Iroquois export.

In the 199-page document, federal regulators wrote that "natural gas extraction and related activities in the Marcellus Shale region are not within the scope" of the review, even though project opponents asked FERC to include the issue.

FERC also found air emissions from the expanded pipeline and its compressor stations would be "below a level of health concern." Federal regulators used air emissions records provided by Dominion on its compressor station in Minden, as well as stations in Dryden, Utica and Schenectady.

As part of the expansion, the company also wants to build stations in Madison and Chemung counties in the Southern Tier.

Last month, Dominion, which held a 25 percent stake in the Iroquois pipeline, announced it had upped its share to a controlling majority of 50.6 percent. Dominion also took on a new partner in Iroquois — National Grid, a utility that provides natural gas service in the Capital Region and much of upstate.

National Grid could not immediately provide comment about the company's future role in Iroquois.

Gas exported through Iroquois to Canada could connect with other pipelines that reach coastal facilities planned for Nova Scotia and Maine. From there, liquified natural gas could be exported via massive tankers to Europe and Asia.

Dominion already has an approved LNG export permit at its facility on Cove Point in the Chesapeake Bay, the first federally approved export facility on the East Coast.

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