Come out to the Rockaways on a beautiful spring day and join us at the Dome to join in a conversation about the Rockaway Lateral Pipeline - what it means to a part of NYC still recovering from the devastation of a climate change storm, and how we can still do something about it.
In March of 1994, I saw the explosion of the Edison gas pipe. I was driving with my daughter on the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn, NY. It was a horrifying sight, even from that distance of approximately 38 miles. Before we reached our home in Rockaway NY it was reported that a gas line had ruptured and caused the explosion. I was relieved to learn that there was only one fatality connected to the incident but concerned that this had happened at all.
And now my concern moves closer to home.
The Rockaway lateral pipeline will run less than a mile from my home on Beach 1xxth Street. I am presently not living in my home because the flood waters from the recent hurricane destroyed it. When I see the destruction that the hurricane caused I can not believe that any sane person would think “Yes, let’s put a gas pipeline there.”
We need SAFE, clean, renewable energy. We need to put ALL our resources toward windmills, solar power and energy efficiency. For the wellbeing of our environment and future generations, say NO to gas lines and YES to clean, safe, renewable energy.
Consider your grandchildren,
As part of the FERC process, Transco must get approval from NYS Coastal Management Program before its application can be processed. The deadline for comments is Friday, March 15. Below are comments submitted by CARP. Please use them to formulate comments of your own and submit your comments to: email@example.com.
Coastal Assessment Program Checklist
Williams/Transco has applied to FERC (docket CP12-36) for permission to construct the Rockaway Lateral pipeline project. This project consists of a 26-inch high-pressure gas pipeline to be built in Jamaica Bay and under Jacob Riis Park and a metering and regulating station to be built in Floyd Bennett Field, all located in Gateway National Recreation Area, a national urban park located in the coastal regions of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
The Rockaway Lateral pipeline project will be located in and/or contiguous to, and will have a significant impact on:
- The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: This wetlands area is home to over 300 species of birds and untold numbers of fish, amphibians, insects, and fragile plants. At least 12 of these species are on the nation’s Endangered and Threatened lists.
- The Floyd Bennett Field community garden – the largest community garden on the East Coast, with over 500 plots, is also a major bird flyway and refuge.
- Jacob Riis Park, a public beach that has thousands of visitors every year.
- Gateway National Recreation Area: This urban park is essential to New York City’s 8 million residents. New Yorkers use this coastal park for kayaking, surfing, fishing, birding, swimming, sunbathing, and outdoor beach sports.
The Rockaway Lateral will run by Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, under Jacob Riis beach, and into Floyd Bennett Field, putting all at risk.
The Rockaway Lateral pipeline project will have a significant effect upon:
- Recreational use of fish and wildlife resources: see above and attached document.
- Scenic quality of coastal environment: not only during the construction phase but also at the entry and exit points of the pipeline; the m&r station will emit noise and noxious fumes, which will also impact both users of the park and wildlife, particularly birds.
- Development of future/present water-dependent uses: high-pressure gas pipelines leak: 4% in the first year; 60% within 10 years. Methane is a toxic gas for wildlife, wetlands, swimmers, surfers. It is also explosive.
- Public recreation opportunities: see above.
- Structures of historic or cultural significance: the current Transco plan calls for housing the metering and regulating station in landmarked historic hangars in Floyd Bennett Field, in complete violation of the park’s mandate, and obviating any educational use for those structures now or in the future.
The Rockaway Lateral pipeline project will involve and/or result in:
- Physical alteration of 2 or more acres of land along the shore and under water: trenching for the pipeline itself will cause significant damage to the seabase of Jamaica Bay, with attendant disruption to flora and fauna in the area.
- Excavation of coastal waters: see above.
- Reduction of existing and potential public access along the shore.
- Development within a designated flood zone: This entire area was heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy and is still suffering the effects and will for some months or years to come. The land on which the proposed m&r station is to be built is a mere 2 feet above the level of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the Transco pipeline project in Gateway National Recreation Area. Please see the attached document. In addition, please note that this is a national park, and it is a tragedy to watch more and more public land – land that is held in public trust for the people of this country and for future generations – being handed over to energy corporations for private gain.
The Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) opposes the construction of the Rockaway Lateral pipeline project (FERC document CP13-36), which consists of a 26-inch high-pressure gas pipeline in Jamaica Bay and a metering and regulating station in Floyd Bennett Field, all in Gateway National Recreation Area. This is the precise area that was recently devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
This pipeline project is so wrong in so many ways,
It is a direct threat to the wetlands and wildlife of Jamaica Bay – and particularly the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. This area is home to over 300 species of birds and untold numbers of fish, amphibians, insects, and fragile plants. At least 12 of these species are on the nation’s Endangered and Threatened lists.
Construction of the Rockaway Lateral would put beachgoers, park users, and area residents at risk. Pipeline leaks and explosions are all too common. Spokespeople for the companies responsible for the Rockaway Lateral say that the pipeline will undergo an internal camera inspection only once every seven years. Even small amounts of methane will have devastating effects on the Jamaica Bay wetlands and the trees, shrubs, and grasses in the Floyd Bennett community garden. Furthermore, the regulating station in Floyd Bennett Field will be unstaffed, monitored remotely by camera from Williams/Transco headquarters in Texas. Fire protection in Floyd Bennett Field is inadequate, with insufficient water pressure and access in an emergency.
The gas carried in the pipeline will be radioactive. Shale gas from the Marcellus has extremely high levels of radon, the second highest cause of lung cancer in the US.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the Rockaways the storm surges reached 14 feet. Climate scientists say that storms of this size and bigger will become a regular occurrence in the near future because of warming oceans and rising sea levels. The place designated for the Rockaway Lateral’s regulating station is 16 feet above sea level – a mere two feet above Sandy’s storm surge. There is no doubt that this regulating station will be hit by the surge of some future storm battering Jamaica Bay. The gas regulator’s function is to reduce gas pressure so the gas can be distributed to customers. When regulator vaults are flooded, the mechanism’s ability to reduce gas pressure can be considerably impaired. The regulator can be stuck in a wide-open position. The fires and explosions that could result would be that much worse because of the area’s inadequate fire protection – access by fire trucks and other emergency vehicles from the outside is limited to a single bridge that could be rendered unusable by a megastorm.
The pipeline itself would come in under the seabed. This makes it vulnerable to damage by hurricanes and other large storms. Hurricanes Andrew, Lili, Ivan, Katrina, and Rita each resulted in hundreds of damaged undersea pipelines – dents, kinks, ruptures, and pipes that were simply pulled apart. And none of them were anywhere near the size of Sandy.
If we are serious about protecting our coastline we cannot allow the Rockaway Lateral Project to go ahead. There is too much at stake.
CARP members (the Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline) came to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 2, to express our support for the indomitable spirit of Irish Americans and the resurgent strength of the people of the Rockaways, and to alert them to the proposed Rockaway Lateral Pipeline, which is now in the beginning of the Federal Energy Regulatory Process. We thank all those who so graciously took our cards and engaged with us on this very important subject.
The pipeline, if approved and built, would be trenched in from the Atlantic, underneath Riis Park and Jamaica Bay to Floyd Bennett Field, where a hazardous metering and regulatory station would be built in a historic hangar. Given the recent accidents with gas pipes, most recently on Tuesday, February 19, it’s unacceptable to us that a high-pressure pipeline is being considered on this peninsula, where people have been through enough!
Please stay in touch with us by entering your email address in “Follow Our Blog” to the right, and stay tuned for how you can participate in stopping this pipeline.
Registering as an intervenor does not obligate you to do anything further. However, to comment on or otherwise participate in the FERC process you must have registered by the deadline. On the other hand, if you do not register with FERC as an intervenor by the deadline, you will be shut out of the process and you will have no voice in protecting and preserving your well being.
The easiest way to register as an intervenor is via the FERC website. To preserve your right to participate in FERC’s process, you must register prior to 5:00 PM Eastern Time, Tuesday, February 12, 2013.
There are two levels of participation on the FERC website. “eComment” is the limited method, and only allows you to submit text comments up to 6,000 characters long prior to the deadline. “eFiling” requires an extra registration step, but eFiling also allows you to register as an intervenor, submit longer comments, supporting documents, etc.
We recommend the eFiling option of paperless registration as an intervenor. Here is how:
Step 1: eRegistration: Time to complete: 5 minutes
- Go to http://www.ferc.gov/
- Mouse over “DOCUMENTS & FILINGS” (near the top of the page, and navigate to the menu item “eFiling”.
- Click on the eRegister button to start the registration process. Fill out basic information on the first page, then click “Next” to fill out the remainder of information.
- FERC will send you a verification email. You must click the link in the email to enable your new FERC account.
Step 2: File an Intervention as an Individual, an Organization, or a Business: Time to complete: 15 minutes
- Go to http://www.ferc.gov/
- Mouse over “DOCUMENTS & FILINGS” (near the top of the page, and navigate to the menu item “eFiling”.
- Log-in using the button on this page.
- After you login, click the “eFiling” link.
- Under “Filing Type” choose “General” in the first column.
- Among the choices that appear in the second column, choose “Intervention”.
- Among the choices that appear in the third column, choose “(doc-less) Motion to Intervene”.
- Click the “Next” button.
- A search form appears. Search for this docket: CP13-36
- A listing for Docket “CP13-36-000” should appear. Click on the “+” under “Select”.
- “CP13-36-000” should now appear under a “Selected Dockets” listing. Click the “Next” button.
- You are now prompted for a “Document-less Intervention Description”. Fill in a reason that you or your organization is a stakeholder in this matter. See the section below on some examples of how you or your organization might be a stakeholder. You may also request a hearing at this point. (See the “Example for Individuals” below.)
- Click the “Next” button.
- Specify whether you are filing as an Individual, or on behalf of another party.
- Click the “Next” button.
- Specify who should get email notices. Add yourself as a “Signer”.
- Click the “Next” button.
- A draft Submission Description appears. You may simply click the “Next” button to accept the default.
Examples for Individuals, Organizations, and Businesses
- Jane Doe is a resident of Brooklyn, New York, a taxpayer, a business owner, an energy consumer, and active in community initiatives related to energy strategy, environmental policy, and economic policy. As such, she is a stakeholder both personally and as a community activist. Ms. Doe’s participation is in the public interest. Ms. Doe further requests that there be ample time and opportunity for meaningful participation by local communities, including but not limited to public hearings on public policies, plans, impacts, costs, and risks related to the subject matter of this Docket. Public hearings should be conducted at locations and times convenient to the affected populations in New York City, especially users of Gateway National Recreation Area and residents of the neighborhoods that are proximate to this project.
- John Doe is a property owner and resident of Queens, New York. As such, he has direct interests including but not limited to personal safety of himself and his family in the event of accidents or terrorist acts, environmental impacts, the value and instability of his property, costs and benefits related to energy policy, and costs and risks related to first responders in case of emergency. Mr. Doe also respectfully requests that public hearings be conducted in Brooklyn and Queens to ensure community awareness, preparedness and participation.
- OrganizationName is a 501(c)3 corporation that supports healthy living by inner city children. OrganizationName is critically concerned with the direct health and safety impacts on children of of gas transmission, as well as health impacts of gas production activities upwind and upstream of the proposed pipelines that may be indirectly promoted by new and upgraded gas transmission infrastructure. OrganizationName is also concerned with the safe and unimpeded use by children of outdoor spaces for recreation. Organization Name thus respectfully requests full participation as an intervenor, and also requests timely and accessible public hearings on the costs, risks and impacts of the proposed infrastructure.
- BusinessName runs a business in Brooklyn in the area of the proposed pipeline project. BusinessName respectfully requests full access and participation as an intervenor, based on potential impacts on the insurability and value of its holdings.
All interstate natural gas pipelines, including the Rockaway Lateral, fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC assesses proposals for, approves or denies, and regulates all interstate gas pipelines and related infrastructure.
FERC is supposedly an independent agency, but as with so many of these regulatory bodies, it is essentially rigged against the public and for industry. The agency receives much of its funding from the industry. As with politicians and lobbyists, there is a revolving door between industry and FERC: gas companies often employ former FERC lawyers as consultants. It’s good to understand this from the beginning.
Carolyn Elefant, a lawyer specializing in FERC practice, has put together a 1-hour webinar on the FERC process. It can be accessed here: http://www.anymeeting.com/carolynelefant/EC55D882804C
Stages in the FERC Approval Process
The approval process for gas infrastructure projects involves a series of stages:
- Prefiling: The gas company submits a construction proposal to FERC, the essence of which is the environmental impact statement (EIS). The public and various concerned entities, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, then comment on the company’s EIS. This stage is the most open to the public and the best time to register comments.
- Filing: Any comments that were not adequately addressed in the prefiling stage have to be resubmitted at this stage. From this point on, only those who have registered as intervenors may submit comments or objections. See section below on how to register as an intervenor. (Note: it’s easy.)
- Draft EA/EIS: FERC issues a draft environmental assessment or environmental impact statement of the proposal. Intervenors may comment at this point as well until the end of the designated comment period.
- Final EA/EIS: FERC issues its final environmental assessment.
- Rehearing request: Intervenors may file a request for a rehearing within 30 days of the final EA. After that, the rehearing process may go back and forth for 6 to 9 months, until a final ruling is issued.
- Court challenge: This follows the final ruling on the rehearing request and also takes about 6 to 8 months.
Enter Kafka: FERC will allow the company to go ahead with eminent domain seizures and construction of the pipeline even while rehearings and court challenges are still in progress. This is the case with the Spectra pipeline in the West Village: Sane Energy’s first court hearing took place three days after the Spectra pipeline construction was completed. Theoretically, if the court rules against Spectra and for Sane Energy, the company could be forced to dismantle the pipeline or never be allowed to use it. In fact, however, the FERC process process – and the entire build-out of gas infrastructure – is designed to create Facts on the Ground. It’s almost inconceivable that a company would be forced to abandon a pipeline that has cost millions of dollars to build. And the purpose of the pipeline is to create a high-speed interstate highway system for natural gas that is being fracked at enormous social and environmental cost all over this country.
Williams Transco has now entered the filing stage. The docket number is CP13-36. It is seeking FERC approval for the Rockaway Lateral pipeline project, and hopes to begin construction in October 2013. Anyone who wishes to comment or object at this stage must register with FERC as an intervenor. The process for registering is explained below.
Some Points from the Elefant Webinar
FERC’s job is to approve or deny pipelines and related infrastructure based on “public necessity and convenience.” The public has two points of leverage against the Rockaway Lateral:
- At the federal level: The company can be challenged under NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act), This necessitates a close scrutiny of the Williams Transco EIS and EA.
- At the state level: FERC approval can be overridden if the state fails to grant a “consistency finding” under the Coastal Zone Management Act, or water and air quality certificates under the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts (minute 14 of webinar).
Expert advice would be required to find out where we might have leverage in all these areas. No other state or local statutes have standing.
Many FERC disputes center around the gas companies’ use of eminent domain. Industry has wide rights in seizing both public and private land. When there is a dispute about the location of a pipeline – too close to someone’s house or school or to a given watershed, virgin woodland – FERC may occasionally make adjustments. But disputes over location do not generally appear to be grounds for denying an application altogether.
According to Elefant, FERC deems certain issues utterly irrelevant and gives them no standing whatsoever. For example:
- Fracking, methane, climate change are nonissues – white noise to FERC regulators.
- Safety issues are not considered by FERC at all in its approval process. Safety issues are determined by the Department of Transportation (DOT) — and only after a pipeline has been approved by FERC.
- Multiple identical or near-identical comments are all lumped together as a single comment by FERC. So when 5,000 people object to a pipeline because it will carry radon-laced shale gas, this is considered a single objection. And irrelevant in any case, because fracking, radon, and shale gas are just white noise to FERC.
Access to information (minute 32 of webinar): Industry may categorize certain information as privileged or confidential: for example, diagrams and charts may be withheld from the pubic under the Critical Energy Infrastructure Information Act. CEII documents can be requested through FERC at this website: http://www.ferc.gov/legal/ceii-foia/ceii.asp. Information relating to historical structures may be withheld under FOIA. For FOIA documents, go to the FOIA website. Three important caveats:
- Requests may only be made by people registered as intervenors.
- The information may not be shared with anyone except other registered intervenors. So if one person in a group gets a CEII document, he/she cannot reveal the contents of the document unless everyone else in the group is registered as an intervenor.
- It sometimes takes a very long time to get these documents, particularly FOIA documents, and may involve significant legal time and money resources.
All of these rules work against the public and in favor of industry, which has lots and lots of money and armies of lawyers working on its behalf. Many of the lawyers have worked as FERC employees and are familiar with the process.
Registering as an Intervenor in a FERC Proceeding
Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (Transco) has applied for permits at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build a gas pipeline in Gateway National Recreation Area. This new gas infrastructure, which includes a 26-inch high-pressure gas pipeline to be constructed in Jamaica Bay, in proximity to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which is home to over 300 species of bird and a dozen endangered and threatened bird, amphibian, marine, and insect species, and under Jacob Riis Park, a public beach that is used by thousands of New Yorkers and other visitors every year; and a metering and regulating station in landmarked hangars in Floyd Bennett Field, adjacent to the East Coast’s largest community garden. This gas pipeline project will have a severe impact on the wildlife refuge in Jamaica Bay, on the environment, and on the very character of Gateway, which is a national park held in the public trust.
Affected citizens, businesses, and organizations have a right to participate in FERC’s decision making process. To preserve this right, you or your organization must register with FERC as an “intervenor” NO LATER THAN THE REGULATORY DEADLINE OF 5:00 PM Eastern Time, on February 12, 2013.
On Tuesday, November 27, President Obama signed into law HR 2606, the New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act, which authorizes the construction of the Rockaway Lateral pipeline project in Gateway National Recreation Area – the very area that has just been devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
The Rockaway pipeline will carry fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale. Supporters of the Rockaway pipeline tout gas as “clean energy,” but this is a lie.
- Natural gas is by far the greatest source of methane emissions in the United States today. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is at least 21 times more potent than CO2. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, and this is what is causing climate change.
- Radioactive radon combines with shale gas during fracking; radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Gas from the Marcellus Shale contains 70 times the radon of other shale gases. That radon will be coming directly into New Yorkers’ kitchen stoves.
- Fracked gas has a larger carbon footprint than the dirtiest coal. It uses up billions of gallons of freshwater, which is forever poisoned with a host of heavy metals and lethal toxins.
For all his post-Sandy talk about climate change, by signing HR 2606 into law President Obama has shown that he is willing to sell our future to the fossil fuel industry. He is passing the true cost of climate change – our water, our air, our soil, our very future on this planet – onto our children and grandchildren.
The politicians are in criminal collusion with Big Oil. They have consistently refused to take the leadership on climate change. Time is running out. We must become the leaders we’ve been waiting for. Our life on this planet depends on it.
Last Wednesday, President Obama declared that he was prepared to have a national conversation about climate change. Now’s the time to take him up on this. HR 2606 is on his desk. We have one more chance to make our voices heard.
Go to the White House website and comment on this bill. Urge President Obama to veto HR 2606. Let him know what a dreadful idea this is – a high-pressure gas pipeline in the very area that has just been devastated by Hurricane Sandy! Then pass this link to others in your social network.
Over 6,000 people have signed petitions to stop HR 2606. We just mailed in an additional 1,100 petitions. You may read CARP’s letter to the president here.