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Algonquin Pipeline Foes Demand U.S. Senators Take Action To Halt Project

Peekskill resident Tina Bongar. center, speaks Thursday at a press conference where participants called on U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to step up efforts to halt the Algonquin pipeline project. Photo Credit: Erik McGregor
Rachel Marco-Havens of Woodstock makes no bones about her feelings about the Algonquin gas pipeline project at a protest in Manhattan Thursday. Photo Credit: Erik McGregor
Protesters call for a halt to the Algonquin gas pipeline project Thursday in front of the Manhattan offices of Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Photo Credit: Erik McGregor

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Foes of Spectra Energy’s controversial gas pipeline, saying things have now reached a “state of emergency,” called on local pols this week to step up efforts to halt its construction.

More than 100 people gathered Thursday in front of the Manhattan offices of U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to demand that they carry that message all the way to the White House.

Last spring, Schumer and Gillibrand both cited public health, safety and environmental concerns when they urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to suspend work on the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project.

Earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had also asked for a suspension while the state conducted an independent risk assessment.

Chief among those concerns was the high-pressure pipeline’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan.

"We are in a state of emergency. This pipeline could be operational in a matter of weeks,” said Courtney Williams, vice president of Safe Energy Rights Group (SEnRG).

“We are calling on our leaders to take immediate action for the safety of all New Yorkers. FERC has ignored them, now they must go to the president who appoints the FERC commissioners," Williams said.

Nancy Vann, a Peekskill homeowner whose property has been affected by the project, said residents want their elected representatives to ask President Obama to issue an executive order telling FERC to put the brakes on the project until independent health and safety studies are complete.

Both Schumer and Gillibrand were invited to attend the event but did not appear, Vann said.

When asked for a comment on the protesters' demands, Schumer spokesman Jason Kaplan said: “Sen. Schumer has repeatedly and clearly expressed his opposition to the Algonquin gas pipeline because it poses a serious threat to the health and safety of residents and our environment across the Hudson Valley and New York state."

Gillibrand's office referred a reporter to several letters that she and Schumer had sent to FERC commissioners Norman C. Bay and Cheryl LaFleur in which the senators raise questions about the project's impact and ask the agency to rescind its approval pending the outcome of independent health, safety and environmental studies.

The pipeline, approved by FERC in 2015, is slated to go into service in November, residents said.

The project increased the size of the current 26-inch pipeline to 42 inches.

It will carry natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region to points north and would run under the Hudson River and through Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties.

Among organizations present at the protest were: Sane Energy Project, Safe Energy Rights Group, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, and ResistAIM.

Tina Bongar, a resident of Peekskill who works with ResistAIM said, "We are here to remind our senators that they have the power and influence to stop this project if they choose to act. Spectra Energy is working to complete this pipeline every single day. Our senators must act every single day until this project stops.”

Gillibrand and Schumer have “an obligation to protect the people of New York, Bongar said, adding: “We know they can do it."

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