Right now fracking in New York is banned. But pumping fracked gas into New York is very much allowed. And the next pipeline to pump that gas here to Manhattan and throughout the city is already under construction here on the West Side. Despite thousands of signatures opposing the pipeline, it’s scheduled to go into service later this year. And some groups say the risks are too great to let that happen.
Floating in the Hudson River, just a few yards away from the West Side Highway, most runners ignore the barge as they head out for their evening run.
Clare Donohue says she’s not surprised.
She only found out about the project by chance.
“I accidentally went to a community board meeting, I thought they were talking about fracking and found out it was a presentation by Spectra Energy and right away I thought it was a really bad idea,” said Clare Donohue of the Sane Energy Project.
That idea? Build a 30-inch pipeline going from New Jersey, through Staten Island, and ending here in the West Village. And the buzzword that most people say brought the issue to their attention… fracking!
The pipe would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania here to New York.
Owen Crowley is part of a group called “Occupy the Pipeline”- he says that money would be better spent on renewable energy sources.
“This is 19th century energy. Here is the 21st century, we have other options, we should be going for those options,” Crowley said.
Crowley’s group created this video warning about the potential dangers this pipeline could pose to the West Side and the entire city – citing explosions at gas lines like this one in California.
They say if that happens here, the impact would be much greater.
“Dozens and dozens of restaurants, residencies, galleries, thriving businesses, boom,” Crowley said.
But Spectra Energy, the company in charge of the pipeline says the pipe has gone through rigorous testing. Spectra says the pipeline would eliminate 6 million tons of carbon dioxide released each year by using natural gas rather than oil and the project meets the standards set forth by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“That’s probably true because the federal standards are so lax. This pipeline will only be required to be inspected once every seven years.”
Even though Spectra says it will monitor the line 24-7 with the help of a state-of-the-art gas monitoring station, many say that’s still not enough given Spectra’s past incidents.
“Spectra energy has a terrible safety record. Other explosions and major fines and I was really concerned about that,” said Michele Fox of Occupy The Pipeline.
And because the gas will be fracked from the Marcellus Shale, an area that has high concentrations of radon, some are worried the known carcinogen will be piped right into their homes.
“I feel like this is an issue for all of New York City because we’re all using our gas stoves in apartments that aren’t very well ventilated,” Fox said.
While people on both sides of the pipeline have argued over whether or not radon poses any actual danger, those who take a more objective approach say radon is everywhere. What’s important is how much, and how long people are exposed.
And Crowley says using Natural Gas to replace Oil, is like using medicine with side effects that are worse than the symptoms.
“It’s not the right solution to replace one problem with another problem.”
Con Edison says there are several other Pipelines of similar size with the same pressure level already under other parts of the city, but would not reveal the locations.
Clare Donohue’s group “Sane Energy Project” has partnered with several other groups to file a lawsuit against Spectra Energy to try and stop the pipe-line from going into service.
They hope to have that day in court this September, service through the pipeline is scheduled to start in November.