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Time 'Running Out,' Say Pipeline Foes; Arrests Made In Verplanck Protest

Foes of the Algonquin Incremental Market gas pipeline project protest Friday in Verplanck. Three of them were arrested at a Spectra Energy drill site for blocking workers. Photo Credit: Shay O'Reilly
Foes of Spectra Energy's gas pipeline project march Friday in Verplanck. Activists say time is running out and they plan to ramp up protests and vigils. Photo Credit: Shay O'Reilly

VERPLANCK, N.Y. -- Foes of a controversial gas pipeline project sang as they marched to the spot where Spectra Energy crews were drilling Friday in Verplanck, according to a spokeswoman for one of the activist groups.

Once there, a few of the 30 or so protesters attempted to block construction vehicles and were arrested, said Nancy Vann of ResistAIM.

They were arrested by state police in Montrose, ticketed and released, Vann said. They are to appear in Cortlandt Town Court to answer charges of disorderly conduct at an undetermined time and date, she added.

ResistAIM plans to ramp up such protests and vigils because, she said, "time is running out” for folks who want to halt the Algonquin Incremental Market pipeline.

“There’s less than 11 weeks left before the gas starts flowing,” Vann said.

The 42-inch, high-pressure pipeline will bring natural gas from Pennsylvania to New England. Replacing an existing 24-inch pipeline, it passes under the Hudson River and cuts across Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties.

Among the chief health and safety concerns expressed by activists, community leaders, residents and politicians, such as U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand is the pipeline’s proximity to Entergy’s nuclear power plant in Buchanan.

Now activists say they are worried about the project’s effect on the area’s water infrastructure. Some say blasting by Spectra Energy damaged water mains in Cortlandt earlier this month and left residents without water during a 90-degree day.

“If we can’t trust Spectra Energy with a water main, why are we trusting them with the Hudson River?” asked Peekskill resident Courtney Williams.

Anti-pipeline groups are also alleging that trenches at work sites are filling with water and could become breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes. They say they have brought these concerns to the attention of the Westchester County Health Department.

Spectra officials could not be reached Friday for comment. The company's website says the pipeline "will provide the Northeast with a unique opportunity to secure a cost-effective, domestically produced source of energy to support its current demand, as well as its future growth, for clean burning natural gas."

Vann said activists are planning a vigil Monday evening in front of Schumer’s home in Brooklyn. Both he and Gillibrand have written to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking it to halt the project while health and safety studies are done.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also has petitioned the commission asking for time for the state to conduct an independent risk assessment.

Activists have called on Schumer and Gillibrand to ask President Barack Obama to issue an executive order forcing rhe commission to suspend the project.

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