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Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline

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This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy.
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Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline operating in the northeastern United States.[1]

Location

The pipeline runs from Lambertville, New York, to near Boston, Massachusetts.

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Project Details

  • Operator: Enbridge
  • Current capacity: 1935 Million cubic feet per day
  • Proposed capacity: Million cubic feet per day
  • Length: 1,129 miles
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year: 1997

Background

The Algonquin Gas Transmission pipelines transport 3.12 Bcf/d through 1,129 miles of pipeline. Algonquin connects to Texas Eastern Transmission and Maritimes & Northeast.[2] The pipeline system operates in the Northeastern states of Rhode Island, Connecticut,Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.[3] he Algonquin Gas Transmission pipelines transport about 20 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per annum. It generally receives gas that originated in the Gulf of Mexico, although it also receives gas from an LNG terminal in Massachusetts.[4] The Algonquin Gas Transmission was owned and operated by Spectra Energy until the company was bought out by Enbridge in 2016.[5]

Expansion Projects

In 2017, the $972 million Algonquin Incremental Market was put into service in 2017, adding another 342 million cubic feet of gas per day to the region. A lateral line connects to Salem Harbor, a former coal plant converting to gas.[6] Most of the project entailed replacing 26-inch diameter pipelines with 42-inch diameter pipelines, allowing for expanded capacity.[7]

The Atlantic Bridge project gained a conditional FERC certificate, but is not yet in service. It would include the Weymouth compressor and reverse the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline to push gas north through Maine toward Canada.[7] According to Enbridge, the project would proive additional capacity to the Algonquin Transmission Gas Pipeline system. The project was planned to go online in November 2017.[8]

A third pipeline expansion also meant to expand the Algonquin system is the Access Northeast pipeline project. The project would have upgraded 125 miles of the Algonquin system's pipelines was projected to cost $3.2 billion. However, Enbridge has suspended the pipeline project until more sound financing is gathered for the project.[9]

There has been opposition to the implementation of all three pipeline projects.

Opposition

The Algonquin Incremental Market expansion was the main focus of opposition. At the center of the controversy and opposition surrounding the pipeline expansion was the rapidly deteriorating Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson river just 45 miles North of Manhattan. In addition to general health and environmental concerns, many residents feared that the expansion of the pipelines was recklessly posing an imminent danger to the entire northeastern seaboard due to its proximity to the nuclear power plant. The pipelines would be approximately 1500 feet away from the reactors and 105 feet from a power substation, which some said was far too risky given a potential accident resulting in an explosion.[10] If such a situation were to occur, the reactors of the facility might be endangered, causing a situation similar to the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Such risks caused community activists, environmentalists, and elected officials to either demand a permanent halt to the expansion project or to stop construction until more safety evaluations were conducted.[11]

Groups opposing the expansion, such as SAPE(Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion) and ResistAIM, found the risk analysis by the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and FERC flawed because it lacked the proper pipeline expertise and failed to consider the risks with installing new pipelines; they also neglected the fact that a significant number of gas pipelines have failed in New York in the last two decades. Data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) shows that 12 significant incidents have occurred on gas transmission pipelines in New York State since 2000, resulting in at $4.4 million in total costs. Spectra Energy pipelines were involved in 38 incidents in the U.S. from 1986 to 2012, according to ProPublica. The PHMSA cited Spectra for at least four violations from 2013 to 2015. It was also stated by SAPE that the NRC used incorrect data, false assumptions, and prohibited modeling. SAPE also included that even if the nuclear plant were closed, they believe the threat of a catastrophe would remain severe due to the amount of toxic waste at the site.[12][13]

Activists and legislators were also deeply concerned because FERC and the NRC were basing their assessments on Spectra and Entergy's own calculations. SAPE also stated that Spectra Energy's (now Enbridge) division of the expansion into three separate projects avoided a comprehensive study of their cumulative effects on the environment and health. Activists stated it should never have been permitted in the first place.[12][14]

Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York demanded an independent safety study of the project, while Governor Cuomo urged FERC to halt the construction of the project until an independent risk assessment of the pipeline's proximity to the nuclear plant was conducted.[15]he Westchester Board of Legislators and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey continued to ask for an independent safety study[16]

However, despite Governor Cuomo's and other New York legislator's concerns, FERC upheld its approval of the project. 21 plaintiffs eventually filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeking to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s March 2015 approval of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market, despite construction having been ongoing for over a year. The brief alleged that the company hired to do the Environmental Impact Statement worked for Spectra, thus representing a conflict of interest. The brief also alleged that FERC improperly segmented the expansion into three separate projects to avoid a more comprehensive environmental impact assessment.[17]

After all other channels of stopping AIM's construction were ignored by FERC, protesters launched blockades to halt the construction of the pipeline in May 2016. Peekskill residents and activists escalated the campaign to stop this pipeline's construction by installing a fully sustainable shipping container at the entrance of Spectra's work yard—complete with two activists living inside.[18] In October of 2016, fifteen people were arrested at a rally outside the Manhattan office of New York Sen. Charles Schumer, where they had maintained a presence for over 60 days. At the time of the protest, the AIM project was scheduled to go online November 1, 2016. The protesters were urging Senator Schumer to take action before the project went online[13] The project was ultimately completed despite intensive opposition.

Articles and resources

References

  1. Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline , Wikipedia, accessed September 2017
  2. Algonquin Gas Transmission, Enbridge, accessed December, 2017
  3. Operator Information, U.S. Department of Transportation, accessed December 2017
  4. Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline, Revolvy, accessed December 2017
  5. Bye Bye, Spectra Energy - It Was Good To Know Ya; Hello Enbridge!, Seeking Alpha, February 26, 2017
  6. Enbridge suspends Access Northeast natural gas pipeline plan, Mass Live, June 29, 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 FERC Authorizes Algonquin To Put Most Of Its Pipeline Into Service, WAMC, November 1, 2016
  8. Atlantic Bridge, Enbridge, accessed November 2017
  9. Mary C. Serreze, Access Northeast pipeline plan suspended, Boston Business Journal, June 30, 2017
  10. Stop The Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Project in Connecticut, Moveon.org, accessed December 2017
  11. Lisa W. Foderaro, Plan to Expand a Pipeline at Indian Point Raises Concern, New York Times, February 28, 2016
  12. 12.0 12.1 Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, SAPE, accessed December, 2017
  13. 13.0 13.1 15 Arrested Protesting Spectra Pipeline Scheduled to Go Online Nov. 1, Eco Watch, October 26, 2016
  14. ResistAIM Confronts FERC Commissioners for ignoring Governor Cuomo’s request to halt construction on Spectra’s AIM Pipeline, Beyond Extreme Energy, March 17, 2016
  15. Cuomo: Halt Algonquin pipeline; gov. cites Indian Point, Record Searchlight, February 29, 2016
  16. Elizabeth Ganga, NRC says Algonquin Pipeline no risk to Indian Point, lohud, November 18, 2014
  17. Coalition Seeks To Overturn FERC's Approval Of AIM Pipeline, WAMC, August 15, 2016
  18. Protesters Blockade Planned Pipeline Site Near Nuclear Plant Outside NYC, Eco Watch, May 2016

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