Millennium answers are unsatisfactory
The Millennium Pipeline Company is in the process of getting permits for a compressor station in Eldred and other pipeline expansion projects known collectively as the Eastern System Upgrade (ESU). It is also pursuing the construction of the Valley Lateral Project (VLP), which, if approved, will carry gas from the main pipeline to the huge, controversial, gas-power plant currently under construction in Wawayanda in Orange County.
In comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in response to the Environmental Assessment that FERC prepared for the system upgrade, several stakeholders said that the upgrade and the proposed lateral pipeline are actually part of the same project. Therefore, they conclude, the two pieces should be evaluated as one. This would make for a more robust environmental review, and perhaps require the creation of a more complex Environmental Impact Statement.
Millennium, of course, wants to follow the easiest path possible and thus rejects the suggestion that the two pieces are part of the same project. The company says the system upgrade is intended to “meet the market demand” of various customers, and the lateral pipeline is to supply gas to the power plant.
But that’s really a distinction without a difference.
If the lateral pipeline is approved, the gas that goes to the power plant will flow through the main pipeline receiving the system upgrades to the lateral pipeline and on to the plant. FERC, in the last 30 years, has only declined a permit application for a pipeline project once out of the hundreds they’ve received. With this background, it seems likely that FERC will accept Millennium’s view of the matter.
There’s a good possibility that this issue will ultimately end up in court, as Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) has suggested in the past. DRN is frequently mentioned, along with other stakeholders, in the response Millennium filed to the criticism of FERC’s Environmental Assessment.
Millennium also asserts that the assessment adequately addresses the impacts of the project on greenhouse gases and climate change, and says it also adequately addresses the impacts of the project on human health.
In the case of the Minisink Compressor Station, situated on the same pipeline, many negative health impacts were cited in a study of the neighborhood. One family walked away from substantial equity in their home because of health concerns. In the case of the Hancock Compressor station, Millennium paid to have a family move out of their home, because the negative impacts on their lives were blindingly obvious to anyone who actually considered health impacts.
Interestingly, health issues were not addressed by Millennium on the current project, even though they were requested to do so in multiple submissions to FERC and Millennium by nearby homeowners, Mark and Alycia Egan, whose home they say is little more than half a mile from the compressor site.
They question Millennium’s projections about the amount of emissions that will spew forth from the station. It’s clear they have become familiar with pipeline technology. They wrote, “Significantly higher potential emissions than those presented in Table B-17 have been independently estimated for the Highland Compressor Station’s Solar Titan 130 gas-fired compressor, using manufacturer’s published information about the system’s energy consumption….”
The Egans also raise the question about how close is safe, writing, “Although we have requested on multiple occasions justification on the distance requirement from the compressor station and a residence to determine what is a safe distance, no answer or follow-up has been provided. Further, the [environmental assessment] lacks any information, methodology, or complete analysis describing the assumptions used to determine a safe distance between a residence, wildlife, or natural resources.”
If Millennium behaves as it has in the past, it will ignore the Egans until forced to respond.
If FERC behaves as it has in the past, it will make every decision in favor of Millennium, and even if the matter goes to court, Millennium will eventually get their compressor station.
And if the experience of the neighbors at the Eldred Compressor Station is the same as the neighbors at other compressor stations, the value of the Egan’s home will be diminished—indeed it likely is already—and their health will be negatively impacted.
Marc Baez, president and CEO of the Partnership for Economic Development, wrote a letter of support to FERC citing the 300 temporary jobs he claims the Highland compressor station will create. Baez is not balancing his support against the inevitable negative impacts that are documented and have happened before.
The pieces are a connected whole, and the whole must be examined.