White Plains, NY – Several members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) ventured today to the County’s Blue Mountain Reservation in the Town of Cortlandt to see the probable impact area from the expansion project proposed by the Houston, Texas-based Spectra Gas Corporation for its Algonquin natural gas pipeline. The major construction project would replace existing 26-inch diameter pipe for pressurized gas with new 42-inch pipe from Rockland County to Massachusetts via Northern Westchester and Putnam County.

Walking on a trail through the Blue Mountain Reservation that is adjacent to the present pipeline, the legislators were able to get an idea of how much of the park, which is favored by hikers and mountain bikers, would be affected by this major construction project. The present 75-foot-wide easement of the pipeline is expected to increase up to 130 feet in some spots through its 1.4 mile course in the park. Thousands of trees would need to be cut down and much of the landscape cleared in the new easement.

“It’s not just this new easement zone that’s a concern, it’s how much of an impact this project will have on the entire park, especially in the areas nearby to where the work will take place,” said Legislator Pete Harckham (D-North Salem), chair of the BOL Labor, Parks, Planning & Housing Committee. “The scope of clearing that could possibly occur along the pipeline needs to be addressed before a review is completed and the work begins.”

Harckham noted that the BOL had sent a request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking for Spectra to furnish a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding the project, since the corporation’s initial Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) did not adequately address the pipeline expansion’s possible short- and long-term effects at Blue Mountain.

The tour of the pipeline in Blue Mountain Reservation was facilitated by Harckham and the County’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation (PRC). Joining Harckham were four of his BOL colleagues—BOL Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers), BOL Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), BOL Minority Leader John Testa (R-Peekskill) and Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson)—as well as PRC Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia, PRC Director of Facilities David DeLucia and County Executive Rob Astorino’s chief of staff, George Oros, a former legislator from Peekskill. Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi and several concerned residents also attended the informational walk through the park.

“The pipeline expansion project will clearly alter the landscape and nature of Blue Mountain Reservation,” said Borgia. “This is something that should have been addressed a year ago when Spectra first began to meet with the County.”

Spectra is seeking a revocable license with the County to do the work in the park. But, to date, County Parks officials are still waiting for a tree survey from Spectra that will show the extent of deforestation that will accompany the project in Blue Mountain. Moreover, construction drawings have yet to be shared with County

“All of the stakeholders involved here at a local level would feel more comfortable at this point in the approval process if Spectra were willing to provide some of the documentation and mapping associated with the expansion project,” said Shimsky, chair of the BOL Infrastructure Committee.

In August 2014, the BOL announced passage of a resolution calling for a stricter review process and full risk assessments in regard to the proposed expansion of the Algonquin gas pipeline through the county. The approved resolution focuses primarily on two specific risks regarding the proposed pipeline: 1) its location in highly populated areas in Westchester, where potential accidents and regular emissions could be harmful to the populace, and 2) proximity to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and two geological faults.

Harckham remarked that concern about the pipeline has been heightened because Spectra is looking to accelerate the approval process at the federal and state levels.

“It’s vitally important the Administration and Board of Legislators work in concert to ensure that the proposed pipeline is given the utmost scrutiny it deserves,” added Harckham. “All of the possible environmental and health impacts of this project need to be carefully evaluated before the first shovel hits the ground.”