Cuomo to put brakes on pipeline near Indian Point nuclear power plant


New York agencies acting on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to immediately halt construction of the Spectra Energy Algonquin Incremental Market project near the Entergy Indian Point nuclear complex.

The state wants construction held up until New York state agencies complete a “comprehensive safety review” of Indian Point Units 2 and 3.

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Public Service Commission, Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Department of Health filed the letter with FERC on Feb. 29.

The letter asks FERC for reconsideration the March 2015 Order providing a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct and operate the Algonquin natural gas pipeline project.

Cuomo is a vocal critic of license renewal for the two nuclear power units. The state also cites a number of recent problems reported from the Indian Point facility, the latest being a tritium leak.

"The safety of New Yorkers is the first responsibility of state government when making any decision. Over the past several months there have been a series of serious incidents at the Indian Point Nuclear Facility, which my administration is investigating," Cuomo said in a Feb. 29 news release.

"At the same time, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a natural gas pipeline in close proximity of Indian Point,” Cuomo said. “I am directing my administration to commence an immediate independent safety analysis of the natural gas pipeline project and until that occurs, we urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to suspend the project."

The AIM Project’s path will require horizontal directional drilling under the Hudson River and adjacent to Indian Point, the state said in the letter.

Although the project applicant has agreed to more stringent construction measures near Indian Point, ongoing State investigations will assess the adequacy of these measures and may also reveal new information about the environmental, health and safety risks posed by the project's siting, Cuomo said in the news release.

“Nuclear reactor Units 2 and 3 at IPEC [Indian Point Energy Center] have shutdown unexpectedly seven times in 2015,” the state said in the letter. “An investigation is underway to determine the impacts of these shutdowns on operations of the units and to determine whether Entergy is appropriately investing in capital expenditures and operation and maintenance budgets to ensure reliable and adequate operations of the facility.”

“We will share the results with you immediately upon receiving them,” the state agencies said in the letter.

“Until this independent safety risk analysis is completed, we ask the FERC stay and reconsider its prior determination to grant a certificate of public convenience and necessity to ensure that the health and safety of all New Yorkers is adequately protected,” the state agencies said. “Specifically, FERC must reconsider whether the proximity to Indian Point and the construction methods required to install the Project would have an impact on the recent increasing leaks of tritium into ground water or otherwise increase the potential for serious operational problems at Indian Point.”

Indian Point Energy Center, in Buchanan, N.Y., is home to two operating nuclear power plants, Unit 2 and Unit 3, which generate about 2,000 MW and supply about 25 percent of power used annually in New York City and Westchester County.

“The Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project will provide the Northeast with a unique opportunity to secure a cost effective, domestically produced source of energy to support its current demand, as well as its future growth, for clean burning natural gas,” according to a Spectra Energy website.

The AIM Project represents an infrastructure investment that expands the pipeline capacity of Spectra’s existing Algonquin Gas Transmission system. It would allow abundant regional natural gas supplies from the Appalachian basin to flow reliably into the Northeast.

The AIM project would span New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It is expected to provide 342,000 dekatherms per day.

The case involves FERC Docket No. CP14-96-001.

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