Representatives from Riverkeeper and Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline (CAPP) spoke to a group of about 15 local residents at the Saugerties Senior Center last Thursday, September 22. The session was one of numerous community-level meetings in connection with the controversial pipeline, several miles of which are planned through Saugerties.
The proposed dual pipeline will span 170 miles between Albany and Linden, New Jersey. One of the pipelines will ship shale oil south, and the other will ship refined products, such as gasoline, north. Each would have a carrying capacity of 8.4 million gallons per day.
In addition to presenting information about the plans, the opponents fielded questions from residents who have been approached by the private company to lease their land for building, as well as from those who wanted to take action to stop the project because of environmental concerns.
The proposed pipelines
Via handouts and speeches delivered by Kate Hudson, a lawyer who works with Riverkeeper, and Sue Rosenburg, leader of Saugerties Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline, residents got the details about the who, where, why and how of the pipeline proposal.
The company behind the pipeline, according to Kate Hudson, is a small group called Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings. Two of the members were previously involved with Koch Industries. A venture-capital firm called Ares is supplying the money, which means, according to Hudson, that Pilgrim has “no skin in the game.”
The plan is to build the pipeline along the Thruway right-of-way. Since the company is not allowed to access the site from the Thruway during construction, access roads will be needed which may cut across landowners’ backyards. Before the meeting, those in attendance pored over maps of the local areas expected to be impacted by the route of the pipelines. One woman from Halcyon Park noted, “That’s right in our back yard.”
The company says the pipelines would be safer than transporting the gas via train. Rosenburg argued that using trains to transport gas will not stop, but that the pipelines would only allow another means to ship the material. In response to the company’s claim that the pipelines were needed, Rosenburg said that there was no shortage of refineries in New York, nor a history of delays.
Referencing a motto from CAPP’s fliers, “our risk, their gain,” Rosenburg cited figures obtained through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. In the past ten years, she said, there have been 631 spills or leaks per year, an average of 1.7 per day. “It’s not the ifs so much as the whens,” according to her.
Hope for the future
Those who spoke during the information session were hopeful that the project would not come to fruition. Hudson referred to the positive declaration the Department of Environmental Conservation and Thruway Authority released a week earlier. The document, which alleges the project has the potential to cause harm, was harsh. As she pointed out, the agencies only needed to cite one area of concern to release this document. Instead they listed 20 areas of concern, including impacts on surface water, groundwater, air, transportation and human health. Hudson read that as “a clear signal to the company” that the state was “not liking the project.”
The speakers stressed that a groundswell of grassroots support made a difference when it came to banning fracking in New York State. A large number of residents making their opposition known could impact the decisionmaking in regard to the pipelines. At the end of the meeting, the group handed out sample drafts of letters that could be written to the Thruway Authority and the DEC, the two permitting agencies for the project.
Writing this sort of letter, referred to as a scoping comment letter, spelling out exactly how the project will impact the local community, according to Hudson, will become part of the record the agencies will need to look at when making permitting decisions. She stressed that hyperlocal, specific issues such as that the construction will take place near an already existing pipeline laid by Central Hudson in one particular area are the most helpful.
The groups are working to get a state bill passed that would allow towns authority for the construction of oil pipelines in their jurisdiction. At present, only cities and villages have that authority. Hudson said they will keep “hammering away.” If such a measure were passed, she thought the project would be “unbuildable.”