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Reps. Engel & Lowey Write to FERC and NRC to Call for Independent Risk Assessment for AIM Pipeline

Reps. Engel & Lowey Write to FERC and NRC to Call for Independent Risk Assessment for AIM Pipeline

Westchester, NY—Congressman Eliot L. Engel, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey, ranking member on the House  Appropriations Committee, penned the following joint letter to officials at the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) calling for an independent risk assessment for SPECTRA’s proposed Algonquin Incremental Market Expansion Project:

 

 October 20, 2015

Norman C. Bay, Chairman

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First Street, NE

Washington, D.C. 20426

 

Stephen G. Burns, Chairman

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Washington, D.C. 20555

 

Dear Chairmen Bay and Burns:

            In anticipation of the October 21 joint meeting of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), we write to request your attention to a matter of extremeimportance to our constituents in New York’s Hudson Valley. Spectra Energy Partners’ (Spectra) proposed Algonquin Incremental Market Expansion Project (AIM Project) is moving forward, despite the numerous requests for rehearing submitted to FERC following its March 3 Order granting approval of the AIM Project.  Furthermore, residents, experts, and elected officials from all levels of government have called on NRC to require an independent transient risk assessment be conducted to adequately evaluate the risks associated with placing the new natural gas pipeline in close proximity to Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC). 

            FERC’s decision to toll the requests for rehearing allows Spectra to move forward with the AIM Project without addressing the serious safety concerns raised by opponents.  While FERC has yet to make a final decision on the requests for rehearing, the AIM Project has received additional approvals from FERC to begin construction on the pipeline, including preparation for the horizontal directional drilling across the Hudson River. 

            NRC has received numerous letters and petitions from concerned citizens, including Mr. Paul Blanch’s “10 CFR 2.206 Petition Regarding Violations of Regulations by Entergy Indian Point” (Blanch Petition), originally submitted on October 16, 2014.  The Blanch Petition was denied. Mr. Blanch appealed the decision to the Petition Review Board (PRB) and asked that the second presentation be held near IPEC to allow interested parties to attend.  PRB agreed to allow Mr. Blanch to make the second presentation via telephone conference.  During the July 15 presentation, Mr. Blanch stated he had a list of 39 questions for PRB, and while PRB could not answer the questions during the presentation, PRB and NRC agreed to respond to Mr. Blanch’s questions following the presentation.  In fact, a representative of Senator Gillibrand’s office asked when PRB anticipated a response, and was told four to six weeks.  PRB rejected the Blanch Petition again on September 9, and has yet to respond to Mr. Blanch’s questions. 

            Spectra’s AIM Project is intended to address the demand for energy in New England.  However, as elected representatives of residents in the Hudson Valley, we believe FERC and NRC’s primary responsibility should be to protect the health and safety of the 20 million people who live within the 50 mile radius of IPEC.  Despite the widespread calls for an independent risk assessment, FERC and NRC have disputed the need and instead relied on Spectra and Entergy’s calculations.  Emails between FERC and NRC obtained through FOIA requests acknowledge that neither FERC nor NRC had the necessary software required to analyze liquefied natural gas terminal projects, and therefore both FERC and NRC relied on Entergy’s assessment.  The information in response to the FOIA requests also included Entergy’s analysis, which appears to be based on a “back of an envelope drawing” to determine the impact of the blast radius.

            Based on the above, we believe Mr. Blanch is entitled to the answers to his 39 questions which NRC promised in July.  We request NRC respond in writing to Mr. Blanch within two weeks. 

            Additionally, we call on FERC and NRC to require Spectra and Entergy to fund an independent transient risk assessment for the AIM Project as soon as possible. Attached is a copy of the description of what should be included in an independent transient risk assessment, which you have previously received in Assemblymembers Sandy Galef and David Buchwald’s August 4, 2015 letters to your agencies. 

            We urge you to discuss the issues of the tolling of the requests for rehearing, Mr. Blanch’s questions, and the need for an independent transient risk assessment at your October 21 joint meeting, and look forward to seeing prompt action regarding these very serious safety concerns.