Feds give pipeline go-ahead, inflaming C.B. 2, Jersey City
BY ALBERT AMATEAU | The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Tuesday approved Spectra Energy’s proposal for a new, high-pressure, 30-inch, natural gas pipeline under the Hudson River between New Jersey and the West Village.
Supported by the Bloomberg administration, which anticipates increased need for relatively clean-burning natural gas, the pipeline has raised serious concerns in the Village regarding safety.
“We’re extremely disappointed that FERC chose to disregard the multitude of safety and environmental concerns raised by Community Board 2 and hundreds of local neighbors about this pipeline, which is a serious accident waiting to happen,” said Brad Hoylman, chairperson of C.B. 2, which covers Greenwich Village, among other areas.
Hoylman noted that many opponents also fear the pipeline would indirectly encourage the drilling of hydrofracture gas wells in New York’s Southern Tier area, which includes New York City’s watershed.
“Our community strenuously opposes hydrofracking,” he said.
The pipeline has also prompted opposition on the New Jersey side of the Hudson.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy of Jersey City said on Tuesday, “We are not entirely surprised, as this entire process has lacked an independent and thorough analysis.” Healy was extremely critical of the final environmental impact statement that FERC issued in March. The Spectra pipeline would traverse 6.5 miles of Jersey City.
As an intervener, Jersey City has the right to appeal the decision and demand a rehearing within 30 days.
“We are committed to fighting this decision and will appeal to FERC for a rehearing and if necessary bring the matter to the Federal Circuit Court,” Healy said.
Hoylman said on Tuesday that he hoped Village opponents to the pipeline would work with anyone planning a lawsuit to block the project.
The pipeline is planned to start at a natural gas terminal in Linden, N.J., cross under Arthur Kill to Staten Island and then under Kill Van Kull to Jersey City. From there it would go under the Hudson, emerging at the southwest corner of Gansevoort Peninsula. The pipeline would then proceed beneath the surface of the peninsula’s south side and under the West Side Highway to an underground terminal at the southwest corner of Gansevoort St. and 10th Ave.
The Hudson River Park Trust has jurisdiction over Gansevoort Peninsula, and in a separate but related action must decide on whether to grant an easement for the pipeline.
At its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, the Trust heard from representatives from Spectra, Con Edison and the city’s Department of Environmental Protection about the project.
“The board will now take time to carefully review the more than 850 comments received during the public comment period, as well as Tuesday’s presentation and discussion before any decision is made,” said Lee Alman, a Trust spokesperson.
Alman said the Trust board did not specify a time frame for a decision but intended to consider all the issues.
Spectra is seeking a 30-year easement from the Trust in return for a $2.75 million payment. The right of way would be 20 feet wide and would require maintenance access that would bar planting trees with deep roots or construction of permanent structures at the surface.
But the strip could be a park with grass and flowers. The 8-acre peninsula — currently used for a Department of Sanitation garage — is destined to become part of the Hudson River Park after the three-district Sanitation garage currently under construction at Spring and West Sts. is completed.
Con Edison would eventually have to build a 1,500-foot-long feeder pipeline from the underground Spectra terminal on Gansevoort St. to an existing Con Edison gas pipeline near 15th St. at 10th Ave. The feeder line is not part of the Spectra FERC application and would also require a full environmental review.
Ann Arlen, former chairperson of the C.B. 2 Environment Committee, said on Tuesday that the pipeline would be a potential disaster for the Village.
She cited the 2010 explosion of a Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipeline in San Bruno, California, that killed eight people and destroyed 38 houses.
“The toddlers playground is one pier away from Gansevoort,” she said, referring to the Jane St. pier water playground. “That’s closer than the distance covered in the San Bruno explosion. If Gansevoort blows, we’d be lucky to lose only eight,” Arlen said.
She added that a May 21 San Francisco news article reported that Pacific Gas has over-pressurized its pipelines 120 times since the 2010 explosion.
Community Board 2’s resolution last October said the board would not support the pipeline because it was not clear that a vast increase in the supply of natural gas was warranted.
In any case, the resolution said, the size of the 30-inch pipeline should be reduced to minimize potential damage. The board also called for the pipeline to have an automatic emergency shutoff valve where the line emerges from the riverbed at the peninsula.