Several Groups Respond To New Market Project EA

ups respond to New Markvironmental Assessment

Friday, October 23, 2015 - Updated: 8:05 AM

MINDEN -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released an Environmental Assessment pertaining to their proposed New Market Project, which seeks to expand numerous Dominion Transmission, Inc. facilities across the state, including the Brookman Corners compressor station in Minden.

Several groups, including Mohawk Valley Keeper and Otsego 2000, have expressed concern with the EA, which is far less detailed than the Environmental Impact Statement officially requested by the two groups, Montgomery County Legislature, and several local municipalities, including Minden, Canajoharie, Fort Plain, Sharon Springs and Otsego.

Several groups and municipal entities have adopted resolutions suggesting practical ways to reduce local impact should the Brookman Corners expansion (which would add a turbine compressor and two reciprocating compressors to the existing compressor unit) take place, including the installation of electric compressors, the consolidation of turbines, and a retrofit of the existing turbine with catalytic emission controls, which is standard industry practice today.

To combine several turbines into a single unit at Brookman Corners would match expansion plans for facilities in Horeseheads and Sheds.

Keith Schue, technical advisor for Mohawk Valley Keeper and Otsego 2000, said that if Brookman Corners expansion plans go forward as currently proposed, the facility will "be the most polluting station by far of the three."

Schue said that the EA is problematic, in part, because instead of addressing every concern that's been officially submitted, FERC "cherry picked which public comments they wanted to acknowledge and which ones they didn't."

For example, the EA states that FERC received public suggestions that Dominion Transmission should consider using electric compressors in Horseheads and Sheds, stating that such action is not possible because there are no high voltage electrical lines in the vicinity of the facilities.

Schue said, "We made the exact same comment about Brookman Corners," which does have high voltage lines crossing the property."The EA ignored that comment."

MVK and Otsego 2000 also made recommendations regarding the installation of cost-effective vapor recovery technology, which would limit the emissions being released into the atmosphere. 

Those comments were also ignored, said Schue, who noted that Dominion Transmission, Inc. has been "bragging that they'll add blow down silencers" to the Minden facility, which means that while emission-expelling blow downs will be quieter, Schue said, "that also means that people won't know when they're getting poisoned."

Canajoharie resident MaryAnn Nellis stated of the EA, "FERC and Dominion have completely ignored the unique topography and meteorology of our region. Located next to the Otsquago Creek, these compressors will produce emissions that threaten surrounding neighbors and drift downstream and downwind to schools and residents of the Mohawk Valley, impacting our children's health and the future of communities for decades to come.

Said Fort Plain Village Trustee Robert Perry of the EA, "The disregard for elected officials entrusted to protect the communities we represent is shocking. There is no evidence that the federal government gave our concerns or recommendations any serious consideration."

As part of the federal process, a 30 day public comment period follows the release of the Environmental Assessment, though the comments will not facilitate changes to the document. FERC will provide answers if they see fit, and the document will then travel to the FERC Commission for adoption. If the EA is adopted, and the State Department of Environmental Conservation doesn't protest or move forward with an EIS themselves, construction can begin.

Otsego 2000 and Mohawk Valley Keeper have requested that the New York State DEC complete an EIS.Schue pointed out, "The key here is that it's not over yet. The state DEC still has to weigh in, and they could insist on improvements," to keep emissions as low as possible.

As part of the process of adopting an EIS, a first draft would be released to the public, which would have time to comment prior to the document's further review and approval.

Dominion Transmission Communications Manager Frank Mack responded to the EA's release, stating, "The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff completed a very extensive and thorough review of the New Market Project, and upon issuing its Environmental Assessment on Oct. 20, found that the project would have no significant impact."

He continued, "The FERC staff reviewed extensive input from local, state and federal agencies, and more than 1,300 letters and comments regarding the project."

Dominion Transmission, Inc. hopes to put the expanded facilities into operation by November, 2016.

Schue said that the project is currently being "fast tracked."

Roger Downs, conservation director of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, agreed, stating, "The manner in which this proposal has been rubber stamped confirms a pattern of gross negligence by FERC."

He continued, "A short-form EA that glosses over the critical issues is not the responsible way of reviewing a project of this magnitude. Worse still, the project runs counter to New York State energy goals and will only increase our dependency on fossil fuels that exacerbate climate change."

Dominion Midstream Partners, LP has acquired 25.93 percent ownership of the underground Iroquois Gas Transmission System, LP. In combination with the 24.72 percent ownership of the Iroquois pipeline that Dominion Gas Holdings, LLC already held, Dominion Transmission, Inc. has 51 percent ownership of the pipeline.

The Dominion pipeline crosses the Iroquois pipeline at Brookman Corners. Currently, the compressor station there only moves gas within the Dominion pipeline using a single turbine compressor and does not interface with the Iroquois pipeline.

if the New Market Project is approved, the additional turbine compressor and two reciprocating compressors installed at the Minden facility would be used to move gas from the Dominion line to the Iroquois line. A significant amount of gas in the Iroquois line would then flow north to Canada once the South to North project is approved.

Schue said that should the New Market Project be executed as proposed, "People here would be suffering for gas that wouldn't even be serving people in the United States."