The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its final Environmental Assessment of the multi-part Rockaway Pipeline project today.
As expected, agency reviewers determined that “approval of the Projects would have some adverse environmental impacts, but these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”
Based on the determination of its reviewers, the full Commission is expected to vote to authorize the project.
The complex project has attracted considerable attention from community organizations because of its location within a national park, its proximity to marine life, and the vulnerability of the Rockaway coastline to catastrophic storms.
The anchor element of the project is a new 3-mile feeder line off the Rockaway coast which Oklahoma-based Williams Companies will connect to its existing 10,500 mile Transco Pipeline. The Transco pipeline runs all the way from Texas to the New York-New Jersey area.
The new feeder line will travel along the ocean floor toward Jacob Riis Park, and then underneath it, delivering gas to new mains below Jamaica Bay. Those mains have been completed by National Grid.
In a later phase of construction, National Grid will connect its new cross-Bay lines to customers in Brooklyn and Queens via a new gas meter and regulating station to be housed within a historic hangar at Floyd Bennett Field. Gas entering the meter station will eventually link to an existing gas main on Flatbush Avenue.
The 60,000 square foot meter station at Floyd Bennett Field will also be constructed by Williams.
Impact on Rockaway Coast & Marine Life
There is extensive marine wildlife in the vicinity of the pipeline project, ranging from large mammals, such as seals and dolphins, to various types of plankton that feed other marine species. Finfish like the Atlantic sturgeon; shellfish; “benthic organisms” like clams, crabs, starfish, and coral; and marine turtles like the leatherback can all be found in the area.
The coastal area adjacent to Jacob Riis Park, where the pipeline is to be constructed, is an Essential Fish Habitat.
FERC stated today that offshore pipeline construction activities, “with the greatest potential” to affect marine wildlife, include “dredging and jetting, vessel anchoring, pile driving, the HDD [horizontal directional drilling], accidental spills of construction-related fluids (e.g., oil, gasoline, or hydraulic fluids), withdrawal and discharge of hydrostatic test water, and construction-related vessel traffic.”
As part of the agency’s approval, Williams must agree to a series of mitigation steps before it begins construction, such as hiring a full-time environmental inspector that is “empowered to order correction of acts that violate the environmental conditions of the [FERC’s] Order, and any other authorizing document.”
Williams must also supply detailed information on the drilling fluid that it will use along the ocean floor, including an evaluation “of the toxicity of each additive…[and]…the potential for bioaccumulation of each additive in the food chain.”
FERC noted that other reviews of the project are still pending, including evaluations by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.