Nine NY Congressional Reps Voted for Keystone XL Pipeline

Congress’ vote to authorize construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline attracted enormous attention because of the potential impact that exploiting Canadian tar sands crude oil could have on the earth’s climate.

In a famous 2012 New York Times op-ed written by James Hansen, the NASA scientist said that burning tar sands crude would be “game over” for the climate.

“Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history,” stated Hansen.

“If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now,” he continued. “That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control.”

New York’s two senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, voted against the legislation, which the White House reportedly threatened to veto.

Eighteen of New York’s 27 Congressional representatives also voted against authorizing construction.

The nine representatives -including three Democrats- who voted in favor are:

  • Peter King (R), Long Island
  • Carolyn McCarthy (D), Long Island
  • Michael Grimm (R), Staten Island
  • Sean Maloney (D), Orange, Putnam, and part of Westchester and Dutchess counties
  • Christopher Gibson (R), Hudson Valley and Catskills
  • William Owens (D), most of the Adirondack Mountains and Thousand Islands region
  • Richard Hanna (R), central New York, including Binghamton
  • Tom Reed (R), New York border with PA, including shore of Lake Erie
  • Chris Collins (R), western New York

One Congressman from NYC Voted Yes

The only New York City Congressional representative who voted to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline was Michael Grimm of Staten Island.

We contacted Michael Grimm’s Washington, DC office to ask about his support of the pipeline, especially given Staten Island’s experience during Hurricane Sandy and its increasing vulnerability to rising sea levels.

Did Congressman Grimm connect climate change to the burning of fossil fuels, we asked.

Grimm did not respond to our questions. However, his voting record indicates that he tends to be very supportive of oil and gas exploration and development, including here in New York City.

Grimm’s website notes that he introduced a bill authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to allow for the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the New York portion of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Gateway includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The pipeline in Gateway, also known as the Rockaway pipeline, is now nearing completion. According to Grimm’s website, “the construction of the [Rockaway] pipeline will create hundreds of local construction jobs, generate approximately $265 million in construction activity, and lower the cost of energy by bringing clean, affordable energy to the residents of New York City.”

Grimm’s bill clearing the way for construction of the Rockaway Pipeline was also supported by Senator Charles Schumer, along with the Bloomberg administration.

 

Under Construction: Rockaway Pipeline to be Operational by Year’s End

Construction on the final sections of the Rockaway natural gas pipeline began last month, which has sparked protests in the area. Demonstrators briefly halted work on the pipeline this weekend.

Local groups opposed to the pipeline’s construction question its safety as sea levels rise, and argue that natural gas is not an environmentally sustainable fuel source for New York City in the long-term.

According to the pipeline’s builder, Oklahoma-based Williams Companies, most of the gas coming from the Rockaway pipeline does not represent a net increase in gas entering the city. Rather, the pipeline is mainly re-routing gas from delivery points on Long Island. The pipeline will be fully operational by the end of 2014, said Chris Stockton, a spokesman for Williams.

Stockton told NYER that he had spoken with Williams’ field staff yesterday, and that the company had not encountered any issues to date as it drills the ocean floor section of the pipeline off the Rockaway coast.

“Third party” environmental inspectors are on-site 24-hours a day, both on the drilling vessel, and on-shore, according to Stockton. While these inspectors work for an outside firm, they are paid by Williams. Representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will also be inspecting the drilling site periodically.

A Complex Project

While the Rockaway pipeline project consists of several, inter-dependent parts, half of the project –managed by National Grid- was approved by the city without public input. The other half –managed by Williams Companies- underwent a lengthy federal review process and construction is now underway.

Dredging for pipeline under the Marine Parkway. Photo Credit: No Rockaway Pipeline
Dredging for pipeline under the Marine Parkway. Photo credit: No Rockaway Pipeline

Williams operates the 10,000-mile Transco natural gas pipeline, which runs parallel to the Rockaway coast. The company is building a 2.79 mile feeder line from its Transco pipeline along the ocean floor toward Jacob Riis Park, and then underneath it, delivering gas to two new mains below Jamaica Bay.

National Grid will connect those new cross-Bay lines to customers in Brooklyn and Queens via a gas meter and regulating station to be housed within a historic hangar at Floyd Bennett Field. Gas entering the metering station will eventually link to an existing gas main on Flatbush Avenue.

The 60,000 square foot m & r station at Floyd Bennett Field is also being constructed by Williams. The m & r station attracted attention from some local groups who argued that the public should have been consulted before the National Park Service agreed to the introduction of an industrial facility into Gateway National Recreation Area.

Impact of Drilling on the Ocean Floor

One mile of the off-shore pipeline will be installed using horizontal directional drilling, a practice which Williams describes as more environmentally sensitive. The remaining two miles of the 26″ pipeline will be laid “conventionally” by digging a trench.

Leatherback turtles are just one of the species that can be found in the vicinity of the pipeline project. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife
Leatherback turtles are just one of the species that can be found in the vicinity of the pipeline project. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife

As we have reported previously, there is extensive marine wildlife in the vicinity of the pipeline project, ranging from large mammals 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 being constructed, is an Essential Fish Habitat.

In its review of the project, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that pipeline construction –especially noise and plumes of sedimentation- could impact marine wildlife, including “special status species” like the right whale, and other marine mammals like seals and dolphins. FERC noted that Williams “would monitor the area for impacts on marine mammals”.

In its responses to FERC, Williams has disputed the extent to which marine life could be impacted by pipeline construction, saying that it has found ways to reduce “the footprint” of drilling activity.

According to FERC, construction of the pipeline would directly disturb about thirty-eight acres of ocean floor. As much as 400 acres of ocean floor could be impacted by a layer of sedimentation from construction, the agency found.

Williams has said that new calculations show the area directly impacted by drilling to be somewhat smaller, twenty-nine acres, in fact. The company also maintained that the much wider layer of sediment on the ocean floor would be minimal in depth.

Williams will also excavate approximately 6.1 acres of seabed for an off-shore “exit pit” which would be used to contain drilling fluids and cuttings released during construction. In comments filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one local resident, Karen Orlando, questioned whether the contents of the exit pit could be dislodged into the ocean by rough currents.

But Williams, which said that the pit will lie twenty feet below the ocean floor, dismissed the concern, saying in a written response to the Army Corps that the contents “will remain stable…up until the time that active backfill occurs”. And Williams said the pit may not ultimately require backfilling, rather, that it could be filled by naturally moving sand.

FERC’s reviewers required a series of mitigation steps –and sign-off from other agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service – in order for construction to proceed. And the federal Environmental Protection Agency concurred with FERC that the impact of the pipeline project falls within an acceptable range.

More Follow-up On Drilling Fluid Used

FERC also ordered Williams to identify “the specific additives that would be used in the HDD [horizontal directional drilling] drilling fluid for the Rockaway Project…an evaluation of the toxicity of each additive, and an evaluation of the potential for bioaccumulation of each additive in the food chain.”

Offshore construction sites, as seen from Jacob Riis beach. Photo credit:  No Rockaway Pipeline
Offshore construction sites, as seen from Jacob Riis beach. Photo credit: No Rockaway Pipeline

Williams has offered examples of additives and evaluations of their toxicity but noted that, “the exact, real time interaction of the site’s geologic conditions with the HDD equipment and fluids will dictate the types and final concentration of additives.” The company stated that, “there is no significant potential for bioaccumulation” because drilling fluid and cuttings would remain isolated from species that feed along the ocean floor.

NYER has requested a final list of the compounds contained in the drilling fluid. This list was supplied to FERC and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. We will post this list when we receive it.

2nd Half of Rockaway Pipeline Project Receives Final Go-Ahead

Oklahoma-based Williams Companies has received the green light from federal regulators to begin construction on sections of the Rockaway Pipeline.

Based on the recommendation of its environmental reviewers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted on May 8th to issue a “certificate of public convenience and necessity…authorizing the construction and operation of the Rockaway Project facilities.”

Directly Connecting the Five Boroughs to the Transco Pipeline

The anchor element of the project is a new 3-mile feeder line off the Rockaway coast which 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.

A Green Light with Conditions

The Commission’s order does come with a series of conditions designed to mitigate the environmental impacts of the project. For instance, prior to construction, Williams must:

“File an assessment identifying the specific additives that would be used in the [off-shore] horizontal directional drilling fluid, including…the concentration and dilution rates for each additive; an evaluation of the toxicity of each additive; [and] an evaluation of the potential for bioaccumulation of each additive in the food chain.”

FERC’s reviewers have requested this information previously: questions about the drilling fluid to be used in constructing the off-shore trench were included in the agency’s Environmental Impact Statement released in February.

Recent Safety Issues for Williams

Photo credit: The Creole
Photo credit: The Creole

Earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that, “Williams…the fourth-biggest U.S. pipeline operator, is studying its safety practices after a series of incidents including a fatal Louisiana explosion in June and a fire last week at a natural gas-processing plant in Wyoming.

“The April 23 fire shut down the gas plant near Opal, Wyoming, and forced the evacuation of the town as a precaution. That followed a March 31 explosion at a liquefied gas storage facility in Plymouth, Washington, that led to another evacuation,” says the Bloomberg story.

“In December, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a $99,000 fine against…Williams following a June explosion at a processing plant in Geismar, Louisiana. Two workers were killed and 80 were injured when a fireball erupted at the plant.”

In its authorization for the Rockaway project, the Commission notes that, “several [outside] commenters expressed concern about the potential for fire or explosion, availability of fire hydrants and firefighting equipment, remote monitoring of the pipeline, emergency response…”

These concerns have been addressed by Williams, said the Commission in its order.

“Transco proposed a more stringent design for the Rockaway Project than is required by the [federal Department of Transportation] regulations,” the Commission stated.

Questions from the Community

As we reported in February, the complex Rockaway 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.

In its authorization, the Commission discusses additional concerns raised by local groups, such as why the National Grid and Williams sections of the project were not reviewed jointly and whether this “segmentation” of the project was a violation of federal environmental law.

The Commission argues that they have no jurisdiction over National Grid’s sections of the project, even though National Grid’s half of the pipeline is dependent on Williams.

“Improper segmentation arises when a federal project, i.e., a major Federal action, has been segmented into separate projects to avoid compliance with NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act],” writes the Commission.

“Contrary to the suggestion of the project opponents, the National Grid pipeline will not function as a Commission-jurisdictional transmission facility [as opposed to a more local distribution line].

Therefore, the Commission had no authority to prevent construction of the facilities commencing prior to the completion of our environmental review of Transco’s proposed facilities,” they conclude.

And the Commission does not accept the argument put forward by some opponents that the Rockaway Pipeline will stimulate more gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale, leading to regional environmental degradation.

Most of the gas coming from the Rockaway Pipeline- eight-five percent, the Commission says- would have made it into the New York City area anyway, because of existing Transco/Williams delivery points off the coast of Long Island.

Construction to Start at Floyd Bennett Field

Photo credit: H.L.I.T. via Creative Commons
Photo credit: H.L.I.T. via Creative Commons

On Thursday, Williams wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, stating that it will begin work on converting two hangars at Floyd Bennett Field into the planned meter and regulating station.

“[We are] planning to commence stabilization-related activities, described in the attached table, at Hangars 1 & 2 as soon as the lease agreement with the National Park Service is executed,” the company noted.

Rockaway Pipeline Receives Key Approval Today

View a larger version of this map here.

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.

Ten Things You Need to Know About the Rockaway Pipeline

The public has until Monday, December 9th to submit comments regarding a draft environmental impact statement prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

  1. The Rockaway pipeline project will connect Brooklyn and Queens to an existing natural gas pipeline 2.5 miles off the Rockaway coast, the Transco pipeline. The project actually consists of three separate sections of pipeline.
  2. Natural gas delivered via the Transco pipeline originates from a variety of locations, including Canada, Shale areas in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and overseas.
  3. Oklahoma-based Williams Companies will build a 3.17 mile branch from its Transco pipeline, traveling along the ocean floor toward the Rockaway coastline, and then under Jacob Riis Park.
  4. Williams’ ocean floor pipeline will then connect with two 5,500 foot lines crossing under Jamaica Bay and into Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. National Grid has already completed construction of these lines.
  5. Williams will construct a 60,000 square foot meter and regulating facility within a historic, unused hanger at Floyd Bennett Field as part of the project. National Grid will also construct a 16,200 foot section of pipeline, running from the m & r station to an existing gas line, which currently terminates at Avenue U and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.
  6. Much of the project takes place in the 26,000-acre Gateway National Recreation Area. The city says the Jamaica Bay area is an “integral part of the larger, regional ecosystem” and that it hosts over 325 species of birds and 50 species of butterflies. The Bay’s 18,000-acre wetland estuary is described as the “jewel in the crown” of the national and city park systems.
  7. During the environmental review of Williams’ section of the project, some federal and state agencies, along with environmental groups, have raised concerns about the pipeline’s impact on marine life off the Rockaway coast, along with the danger posed by future catastrophic storms and flooding to the meter and regulating station.
  8. National Grid says that over the next five years, demand for natural gas in its NYC service area is forecasted to increase 15 percent, representing an additional 25,000 residential, commercial, industrial and multifamily customers.
  9. Adding to the demand for natural gas, the city has passed regulations that call for replacing pollution-generating heavy heating oils used in buildings with substantially cleaner fuels by 2030. Policymakers expect that natural gas will be among the most attractive options because of its low cost and decreased emissions.
  10. National Grid’s sections of the project were not subject to a full-scale environmental review or public input process. Williams’ sections have undergone a lengthy environmental review.

 

Countdown to Approval for Rockaway Pipeline: Public Comment Period Ends Today

It’s possible to build and operate the Rockaway pipeline without doing serious harm to the local environment say federal regulators. But the pipeline’s operator must agree to a series of additional steps, such as disclosing the toxicity of the drilling fluid it will use.

“We are recommending that our mitigation measures be attached as conditions to any authorization issued by the Commission,” said reviewers for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Today is the last day the public will be able to submit comments on a draft Environmental Impact Statement for major sections of the Rockaway pipeline project.

FERC, which released the draft EIS in October, stated that, “approval of the Projects would have some adverse environmental impacts, but these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.” Any environmental damage to the Rockaway coast and other areas would “mostly occur during [pipeline] construction,” the agency added.

FERC also notes in the EIS that pipeline-related infrastructure, particularly a meter and regulating facility to be built at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, are vulnerable to flooding and high winds associated with category 1 to 2 hurricanes. But these vulnerabilities could be addressed said the agency.

State and federal agencies, and environmental groups, have raised concerns about the complex project, especially the impact of drilling a 3-mile section of ocean floor pipeline off the Rockaway coast. Some local groups have also charged that the pipeline is part of the “industrialization” of the New York coastline, and an inappropriate use of a national park.

But the pipeline meets a critical demand, according to one of its builders, Oklahoma-based Williams companies. Williams stated in a federal filing that local utility, National Grid, requested the pipeline and that it would “reduce gas supply constraints, allowing existing dual-fuel power plants and customers with interruptible service…to continue using natural gas rather than switching to their alternative oil-burning systems.”

The findings of the draft EIS are a significant step forward for the Rockaway pipeline. If approved by all the relevant agencies, construction on the ocean floor section of the pipeline would begin in the spring of 2014.

And the determination is good news for the Bloomberg administration, which has consistently supported the project, saying that natural gas could enable New York to transition away from heavier heating oils that have contributed to the city’s air pollution woes.

The Rockaway pipeline is one of two major natural gas pipeline projects currently under construction in New York City.

Environmental Impact on the Rockaway Coast

Despite months of documentation by Williams, and ongoing dialogue between the company and federal and state regulatory agencies, it is difficult to pinpoint how powerful the impact of the pipeline will be on the Rockaway coast.

There is extensive marine wildlife in the vicinity of the pipeline project, ranging from large mammals 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.

In its review, FERC found that pipeline construction –especially noise and plumes of sedimentation- could impact marine wildlife, including “special status species” like the right whale, and other marine mammals like seals and dolphins. FERC noted that Williams “would monitor the area for impacts on marine mammals”.

In written comments to FERC, Williams disputed the extent to which marine life could be impacted by pipeline construction, saying that it had found ways to reduce “the footprint” of drilling activity.

According to FERC, construction of the pipeline would disturb about thirty-eight acres of ocean floor. Williams now says that new calculations show the impacted area to be somewhat smaller, twenty-nine acres, in fact.

Williams will also excavate approximately 6.1 acres of seabed for an off-shore “exit pit” which would be used to contain drilling fluids and cuttings released during construction. In comments filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one local resident, Karen Orlando, questioned whether the contents of the exit pit could be dislodged into the ocean by rough currents.

But Williams, which says that the pit will lie twenty feet below the ocean floor, dismissed the concern, saying in a written response to the Army Corps that the contents “will remain stable…up until the time that active backfill occurs”. And Williams said the pit may not ultimately require backfilling, rather, that it could be filled by naturally moving sand.

FERC’s reviewers have proposed a series of mitigation steps –and sign-off from other agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service – if construction is to proceed. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has concurred with FERC that the impact of the pipeline project falls within an acceptable range.

Nonetheless, FERC has ordered Williams to identify “the specific additives that would be used in the HDD [horizontal directional drilling] drilling fluid for the Rockaway Project…an evaluation of the toxicity of each additive, and an evaluation of the potential for bioaccumulation of each additive in the food chain.”

In its response to FERC, Williams offered examples of additives and evaluations of their toxicity but noted that, “the exact, real time interaction of the site’s geologic conditions with the HDD equipment and fluids will dictate the types and final concentration of additives.” The company maintained that, “there is no significant potential for bioaccumulation” because drilling fluid and cuttings would remain isolated from species that feed along the ocean floor.

FERC is also requiring more analysis of the degree of sedimentation that would be released along the ocean floor during drilling. This question has been raised by the state’s lead environmental agency because wildlife can be submerged or suffocated by the plumes. Approximately 402 acres of seabed could be affected by sedimentation, said FERC.

Williams also disputed this figure, saying that the vast majority of the impacted area –376 acres- would experience a minimal level of sedimentation, up to .1 inch.

According to the EIS, Williams must employ a full-time environmental inspector for the project who would enforce all of the agency’s recommended mitigation steps. The state Department of Environmental Conservation had requested this spring that an independent outside inspector be hired for the project but Williams did not agree.

What About Another Superstorm Sandy?

Both federal and state agencies have raised questions about the risk to the pipeline posed by extreme weather. FERC notes that, “an analysis by the New York State Emergency Management Office (2005) found that the entire Rockaway Peninsula and much of the Brooklyn-Queens area could be flooded due to Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes…but the increase in risk of flooding during a major hurricane event is difficult to predict.”

The agency maintains that flooding would not pose a risk to the off-shore section of the pipeline because it is buried, but does discuss the danger of flooding to the meter and regulating facility to be constructed at Floyd Bennett Field. “Sea level in New York City is predicted to rise from 8 inches to more than 11.4 inches by the year 2100 (Sallenger et al., 2012),” writes the agency. “Based on these estimates, the M&R facility would still be approximately 2 feet above the 100-year floodplain if the sea rises to those levels.”

FERC’s data does not appear to match the city’s. Projections released by the New York City Panel on Climate Change earlier this year state that, “by the 2050’s, sea level rise is projected to rise 11 to 24 inches (middle range) and 31 inches (high estimate)”. The Panel has maintained that sea levels will continue to rise through this century and beyond.

FERC adds that Williams “states that the ability to forecast hurricanes several days in advance would allow it to ensure the safety and integrity of its system despite any potential damage that might occur to the M&R facility.”

One Project, Two Different Public Review Processes

While the Rockaway pipeline project consists of several, inter-dependent parts, half of the project –managed by National Grid- was approved by the city without public input and is well underway. The other half –managed by Williams Companies- is undergoing a lengthy federal review process which offers opportunities for public comment.

Williams operates the 10,000-mile Transco natural gas pipeline, which runs parallel to the Rockaway coast. The company will build a 2.79 mile feeder line from its Transco pipeline along the ocean floor toward Jacob Riis Park, and then underneath it, delivering gas to new mains below Jamaica Bay. Those mains have now been completed, said Karen Young, a spokeswoman for 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. The m & r station has attracted attention from some local groups who argue that the public should have been consulted before the National Park Service agreed to the introduction of an industrial facility into Gateway National Recreation Area.

Bringing More Gas into New York City

The main function of the Rockaway pipeline project is to provide a more direct supply route for natural gas being delivered to customers in Brooklyn and Queens. Williams’ Transco pipeline currently has a delivery point at Long Beach. However, the project will also increase the net amount of natural gas coming into the New York City area.

Williams/Transco is proposing an increase –100,000 dekatherms- in the amount of gas the pipeline will deliver every day. The proposed capacity increase –known as the “Northeast Connector Project”- will be facilitated by upgrading gas compressor stations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The two projects –the Rockaway pipeline and the Northeast Connector- are being reviewed jointly by FERC.

The public comment period on the draft EIS, which examines Williams’ sections of the pipeline, is about to close. FERC will then release a definitive environmental review and determination as to whether the final sections of the Rockaway project will go ahead.

The Rockaway pipeline could also link to another natural gas infrastructure project that has attracted attention.

Federal regulators are reviewing a proposal for a deepwater liquefied natural gas port which would also increase the supply of natural gas in the New York City-metro area. Port Ambrose’s buoy system and pipeline infrastructure — lying in 100-foot ocean waters — would be located 17 miles southeast of Jones Beach and 27 miles away from the entrance to New York Harbor.

According to the port’s developer, Liberty Natural Gas, incoming frozen gas would be warmed and “re-gasified” at the port, and then transferred into a new 22-mile subsea pipeline system feeding directly into the Williams’ Transco lateral. The Transco lateral, in turn, will connect with the Rockaway pipeline currently under review by FERC.

Regulators Seek Answers About Rockaway Pipeline Project

Regulators are aggressively seeking answers about potential environmental risks to the Rockaway pipeline project, including whether flooding caused by future extreme storms could damage critical infrastructure.

Both the state’s Division of Coastal Resources and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are seeking answers from Oklahoma-based Williams Cos., whose subsidiary, Transco, is building part of the complex project.

In particular, they want to know how flooding from category 3 to 5 storms could affect a natural gas metering station planned for Floyd Bennett Field in southeast Brooklyn.

After receiving what it described as an incomplete response to its question about potential flooding caused by extreme weather, FERC said yesterday that it wanted a fuller response within 10 days.

[Read more at the Gotham Gazette]

Work Officially Begins On Natural Gas Pipeline Project Under Jamaica Bay

Work has officially begun on the natural gas pipeline project that will run underneath Jamaica Bay.

National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young says the utility started preparatory work for construction of two gas pipelines underneath Jamaica Bay’s Rockaway Inlet. The pipelines will be 1.6 miles in length and 50 feet below the seabed. Work began last Friday.

Young said that she was not sure exactly when drilling would commence under the Rockaway Inlet.

In a later phase of construction on its “Brooklyn/Queens Interconnect project”, National Grid will connect these 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.

[Read more at Gotham Gazette]

After Hurricane, Some Begin To Question Wisdom of Rockaway Pipeline Project

Now that the construction of a new chain of natural gas pipelines running from the Rockaway peninsula to Brooklyn has been delayed following Superstorm Sandy, residents and elected officials are beginning to question whether the project is safe to build at all.

The exceedingly complex project would be constructed in separate phases — under the regulation of federal, state and local authorities — adjacent to coastal communities that were among the hardest hit during the storm.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, who represents central Brooklyn, told Gotham Gazette in an emailed statement that the destruction caused by Sandy had raised concerns among residents who live near the proposed gas pipeline project.

“Our need for independent energy cannot precede the safety of our community and environment,” she said.

[Read more at Gotham Gazette]

Straight through the Rockaways, Oversight of New Pipelines is Split

A plan to construct a new chain of natural gas pipelines from the Atlantic Ocean off the Rockaways through Jamaica Bay to the city is fueling anxiety from residents and some lawmakers because of its complexity and its potential impact on the surrounding community and coastal habitat.

The pipeline project is being championed by the mayor’s office, which says it is critical for meeting the demands of the energy-hungry metropolis, and National Grid, whose customers in Brooklyn and Queens will largely benefit from the increased supply that the project will bring.

Much of the project takes place in the 26,000-acre Gateway National Recreation Area. A new pipeline will extend from an existing gas line two-and-a-half miles off the Rockaway coast and run underneath Jacob Riis Park toward Jamaica Bay. Two pipelines will then run underneath the Bay, connecting to a proposed gas metering station to be housed in a historically significant hangar at Floyd Bennett Field. A separate pipeline will run from the meter station to an existing gas main on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

[Read more at Gotham Gazette]