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Legislators Express Concern Over Pipeline's Impact On Parkland In Cortlandt

Several Westchester Legislators expressed their concerns regarding an expansion project.
Several Westchester Legislators expressed their concerns regarding an expansion project. Photo Credit: Westchester County Legislators Facebook

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Several members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators wrote a letter expressing their concerns about a proposed natural gas pipeline expansion project passing through the town of Cortlandt

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) delivered yesterday afternoon, several members of the County Board's  Labor, Parks, Planning & Housing Committee expressed serious concern with the environmental impacts of the proposed Spectra Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM ) natural gas pipeline expansion project within Blue Mountain Reservation, which is public parkland owned by Westchester County in Cortlandt.

As a result of their concern, the committee members are calling for a proper assessment of the harm and ruin to natural resources likely to accompany construction.

Information regarding the possible scale of environmental impact from the proposed pipeline project was communicated this week to the Labor, Parks, Planning & Housing Committee, chaired by Legislator Pete Harckham (D-North Salem), during two days of meetings and testimony from Spectra Energy representatives, county Parks Department staff, County Attorney’s Office, local elected officials, and other interested persons.

“It was important to gather all of the stakeholders together and have some important questions about this gas pipeline answered,” said Harckham. “The process has, indeed, generated even more concerns about the unfortunate results that may be caused by the project and how much county park land will be possibly harmed during the course of construction.”

“Before any approvals are made, we’re asking for a closer look at all of the facts and details about what will ensue if a green light is given to Spectra,” said Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers).

The committee members were troubled to learn that Spectra Energy only met with the county’s professional Parks Department staff, for the first time on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. According  to Parks Department staff members, this initial walk through generated “major concerns” on impacts to the natural resources and recreational uses of the park which would be caused by the large Additional Temporary Workspace Areas and additional clearances sought by Spectra Energy.

“It is now known, in fact, that the pipeline project would involve clearing a right-of-way and necessitate the removal of many mature trees and create a major disruption to existing wetlands,” said Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson). “Trails and roadways in the park would also be affected. Together, the potential damage to the park is greater than what we were led to believe.”

The letter sent by the committee members notes that the Parks Department staff “has not had adequate time to review, nor have they been presented with any technical drawings or surveys regarding the scope of work proposed by Spectra Energy in its recent meeting and to properly assess the construction impacts to Blue Mountain Reservation.” Testimony at committee meetings also showed that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the AIM Project contains significant inaccuracies and false information regarding the project impacts within Blue Mountain Reservation.

So far, the Board of Legislators has not seen a survey of the intended project.

Attached to the committee's letter to FERC is a memorandum of a January 28, 2014 meeting between representatives from Spectra Energy and the Astorino Administration that addressed a request for construction in Blue Mountain Reservation and the process for obtaining approval for work space from the County. The memorandum was shared with the committee for the first time this week.

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