My Peekskill — # 19 – An Extra-Large Thank You to the Peekskill Common Council

The Common Council has taken, once again, a stand for the rights and safety of Peekskillians and 20 million others. Monday night they passed a resolution calling for
“a comprehensive, independent and transparent risk assessment of a potential rupture of a 42-inch diameter high-pressure pipeline in close proximity to Indian Point Nuclear Facility”

We all owe them an oversize THANK YOU for unanimously passing this resolution.

Fracked methane infrastructure is dangerous in so many ways

Fracked methane infrastructure is dangerous in so many ways

Dozens of elected officials, grassroots groups, and activists have, for many long months, been calling for just such an assessment. Recently Governor Cuomo has joined in. So far, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the only agency with the authority to cancel the project, has been unimpressed.

On February 8th I proposed a resolution I wrote at a Council meeting. (You can refresh your memory here) It nearly passed on the spot but it was decided legal review was needed to make sure the City didn’t open itself up to liability. Which makes sense – methane and other extreme energy companies have often tried to use the courts to cripple municipalities who displeased them. Our conscientious and competent Corporation Counsel, Melissa Ferraro, made sure the resolution made its point without putting the City in jeopardy. Nothing runs in a straight line. Though I (and People Preventing Pipelines) provided the initial impulse, the resolution which passed on Monday was different than the one I wrote.

Here’s a summary of the risks of a pipeline failure near our aging, leaking, and unlicensed nuclear power plant. Worst case: a methane explosion and fire causes the failure of the plant’s cooling systems, leading to Fukushima on the Hudson: meltdown, containment breach, death or injury of 20 million people, Westchester County and New York City uninhabitable for decades, and the collapse of the world economy. It is, of course, impossible to justify this risk. Especially since the pipeline’s ultimate purpose is to make possible the selling of Pennsylvania fracked gas to foreign markets so executives and shareholders of Spectra, a Texas company, can significantly increase their net worths. There’s no reason anyone in Peekskill, or anywhere else along the pipeline’s route, should be endangered, harmed, or even inconvenienced to facilitate such an outcome.

This engineering-at-its-worst was obtained by Paul Blanch

This engineering-at-its-worst was obtained by Paul Blanch

Given the risks, Peekskill believes the unsigned, undated and back-of-an-old-envelope “engineering” “assessment” to be too unbelievable for even the blackest comedy. Produced by some Entergy employee, this drawing was used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conclude that the proposed pipeline posed no risk at all. (more here)

The resolution also urges county, state, and federal permitting agencies to make permission contingent on the successful completion of independent risk assessment and other reviews.

Setting off high explosives is a potent symbol of disregard for public safety in pursuit of private gain. A number of Peekskill residents recently received notices that Spectra Energy wants to begin blasting in pursuit of its pipeline goals. Peekskill doesn’t like Spectra’s plans. We don’t like any of their plans that involve explosives. And this week our representatives drew a line in the sand about it.

The resolution’s message to Spectra: If you’re going to bring high explosives into our town and we can’t just say NO, we’re going to insist you prove there’s adequate insurance and make sure that if you break anything we’ll know and you’ll fix it. We’re going to make you pay to prove you didn’t harm any of our people, property, or infrastructure. And we’re going to subject you to significant official attention. If, as an unintended consequence, that makes your project more expensive and less convenient, that just might be unavoidable if we insist on being responsible toward our citizens.

Finally, it’s important to note that despite the sometimes contentious and partisan relationships amongst our elected officials, when the well-being and safety of our City are on the line, there’s no hesitation: they come together and do what needs to be done.

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