Broad Coalition Rallies Against Gas Pipeline Project

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Rhode Island is playing a part in a recent legal challenge to a $1 billion natural-gas pipeline expansion that would run through southern New England.

Fossil Free RI is one of nine anti-pipeline groups, two municipalities and several politicians to file formal requests for a court hearing to vacate the recent federal approval of the Spectra Energy project that would increase the capacity of natural gas delivered from domestic fracking extraction operations in Pennsylvania. The 1,127-mile pipeline already runs through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the controversial Algonguin Incremental Market project March 3. Other state and federal approvals are needed, but the project, which includes a major upgrade to a compressor station in Burrillville, is expected to begin later this year.

Politicians seeking the hearing include Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, two Massachusetts state legislators and members of the Boston City Council.

“I have listened to the concerns of the community, and we have asked Algonquin Gas and Spectra Energy several times to find a new route for this pipeline,” Walsh wrote in a prepared statement

The advocacy groups include Better Future Project, Capitalism vs. the Climate, Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition, Food & Water Watch, Keep Yorktown Safe, Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion and West Roxbury Saves Energy. The city of Peekskill, N.Y., the town of Cortland, N.Y., and residents and politicians from West Roxbury and Dedham, Mass., were also part of the hearing request.

This coalition is concerned about the health, safety and environmental risks of increasing pressure in the 63-year-old Algonquin pipeline. Projects of particular concern include a new section of pipeline in a seismic zone near the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y.

A new section of the pipeline also is proposed for construction near a gravel quarry in West Roxbury that mines with dynamite. The quarry project is part of the proposed 4.1-mile West Roxbury Lateral pipeline extension that would run through Westwood and Dedham, in addition to West Roxbury.

Opponents say the project would increase greenhouse-gas emissions, supports controversial domestic fracking practices, delays the transition to renewable energy, and doesn’t give a clear accounting of costs and alternatives. There also is speculation that the project prepares the existing pipeline to export natural gas to Canada and to shipping terminals in Canada.