White Plains, NY – Three Democratic caucus members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators strongly condemned today the decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to grant a key approval to Houston, Texas-based Spectra Energy Corporation for its Algonquin natural gas pipeline. The major construction project would replace the existing 26-inch diameter pipe for pressurized gas with a new 42-inch pipe at numerous locations between Rockland County and Massachusetts via Northern Westchester and Putnam County.

In January, the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) Labor, Parks, Planning & Housing Committee (LPPH), chaired by Legislator Pete Harckham (D-North Salem), received an independent environmental assessment of potential impacts to the County’s Blue Mountain Reservation from the expansion project. The report’s recommendations, which went far beyond the Draft Environmental Impact Statement completed by Spectra, included not widening the right-of-way through Blue Mountain, surveying the park’s wetlands more closely and adding funds for independent monitoring during the expansion project.

“By summarily approving this risky gas line project, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has shown that it is deaf to the valid concerns of residents and elected leaders, who simply asked for a more stringent review before letting Spectra move ahead,” said Harckham. “I’m disappointed and frustrated that a good deal of effort and energy went into identifying serious questions regarding the pipeline that they (FERC) apparently don’t feel need to be answered.”

In December 2014, a number of BOL members visited Blue Mountain to see first-hand where the expansion project would take place and get an understanding of what widening the right-of-way would mean.

“Allowing this pipeline expansion project to tear up a good part of Blue Mountain Reservation will set a regrettable precedent,” said BOL Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), in whose legislative district much of the pipeline project in Blue Mountain will take place. “There needs to be a lot more information gathered and analysis undertaken to minimize risks to residents and workers before the work should start.”

Borgia also noted that numerous concerns about the pipeline’s proximity to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Facility were also ignored by FERC.

“Since last summer I have worked hard, along with number of my colleagues on the Board of Legislators, to pass a bi-partisan resolution telling FERC that we need an independent air quality analysis for compressor stations, an independent analysis to assess health impacts and an independent analysis related to pipeline’s proximity to Indian Point,” said Legislator Catherine Parker (D-Rye), chair of the BOL Energy & Environment Committee. “We have also reached out to federal officials with concerns offered by a wide range of professionals. So, I am more than dismayed that all our reasonable requests have been ignored by the agency charged with regulating the energy industry. Because accidents involving gas pipelines do occur, sometimes with catastrophic results, I would think that a lot more due diligence would be put into this process before an approval was granted.”