Community fights Greenwich Village gas pipeline

A protester at a May 13, 2013 rally against the Spectra pipeline. Credit: Eric Walton.
A protester at a May 13 rally against the Spectra pipeline. Credit: Eric Walton

Concerns are growing about the planned Spectra pipeline on the west side of lower Manhattan, but those concerns may be coming too late: The pipeline is already in place. The only thing that remains is to connect it to Con Edison power structures — a project that Con Ed says is on track to be completed by November.

The Spectra pipeline runs along the Jersey Shore and from the Port Authority hub in Hoboken under the Hudson River to Gansevoort Street in Lower Manhattan, according to Sane Energy Project co-founder Denise Katzman.

From Gansevoort Street, a Con Ed extension runs up along the West Side Highway to a Con Ed power station at 14th Street and 9th Avenue.

Clare Donohue, also with the Sane Energy Project, said that while the Spectra pipeline has been reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Con Ed extension of the pipeline has undergone no environmental review.

A spokesperson for Con Edison said its extension is the same as all of the company’s other infrastructure in the city.

“We are in compliance with all environmental rules and regulations,” the spokesman said. “This is routine gas work for us.”

According to Katzman, seismic pressure becomes more intense the wider the radius of the pipeline. The Spectra pipeline has a radius of 30 inches. That is the same size as the pipeline that exploded in San Bruno, Calif., in 2010.

Donohue noted that the well-known San Bruno pipeline accident occurred in a suburban area in California and wrecked massive damage on the area, killing eight people. She noted that the pipeline in Manhattan is in a densely populated, economically vibrant neighborhood. In particular, she pointed out that it runs parallel to the High Line. Since the restoration of the High Line, commercial activity has grown exponentially as hotels, condos and businesses flock to the area.

Katzman said a gas vault will be located underneath the Whitney Museum’s new location. A spokesperson for the Whitney confirmed there will be a gas vault connected to or next to it, but did not know the exact location or what impact that proximity would have on the museum’s artwork or insurance.

The pipeline also lies 300 feet from a playground in Hudson River Park.

A spokesperson from Spectra called the concerns unfounded, and said the pipeline was “built to meet or exceed all federal safety regulations.”

“The only thing that our pipeline and the San Bruno pipeline have in common is that they are natural gas pipelines,” the spokesperson said. “Spectra Energy has been delivering safe, reliable, clean natural gas and energy to the New York-New Jersey region for more than 60 years.”

Web videos highlight “a number of safety enhancements” that the Spectra spokesperson said will “ensure that it will be one of the safest pipelines in North America.”  

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the district where the pipeline lies, did not respond to requests for comment.

Susceptible to terrorist attacks?

Katzman pointed to a statement by FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York this spring, citing the U.S. power grid’s susceptibility to terrorist attacks. Wellinghoff said solar energy could protect against lengthy blackouts caused by a potential terrorist attack on the power grid.

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security issued several alerts over six months as an apparent cyberattack seemed to be mounting on the control systems of U.S. gas pipelines.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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