The 178 mile Pilgrim Pipeline that is beginning the process of environmental review has stirred up a hornets nest of opposition for the thirty towns through which the pipeline will run. The scoping process, the first step in what promises to be a contentious battle, is about to get underway. The pipeline is facing a galaxy of environmental organizations including Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Natural Resources Defence Council, the Sierra Club and Clearwater.
Kate Hudson, an attorney from RiverKeeper is heading up the efforts with local town attorneys.
The pipeline is expected to have 200,000 barrels per day capacity in each direction, approximately the same quantity of fuels currently transported up and down the Hudson by rail and barges. The economic justification of the pipeline is that it cheaper to move crude and refined production by pipeline than by other modes of transportation. The applicants argue that is also safer.
Town councilwoman, Jen Metzer, from the Town of Rosendale, told us that her town town filed the first resolution of opposition to the pipeline. Thirty other towns have now also filed resolutions to oppose the pipeline. Towns in New Jersey through which the pipeline would run are also filing objections to the proposal.
The applicant is Pilgrim Holdings, LLC, a closely held corporation that has received institutional backing. Metzger told us that the president, Errol Boyle and vice-president, Roger L. William, were top executives of Koch Industries. Pilgrim is said to be financed by Ares Energy Investment Fund. That fund’s $195 million investment was questioned by a report issued by Unite Here, a publication that monitors funds in which union pension funds have invested. See: Ares Management Report
The lead agencies will be the New York State Thruway Authority and the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation. The company is planning to use NYS Thruway Right of Way (ROW) for 79% of its construction. But the company, which become certified as a transportation corporation, can also take land by eminent domain. Some of that land runs behind schools, through soccer fields, and municipal and private properties. The power to use eminent domain for this pipleline is being attacked in the state legislature.
The thirty towns are asking for 90 days to comment on the scoping document. When the scoping document is adopted by the lead agencies, the substantive portion of environmental review under SEQR will begin.
“The Town of Rosendale and other towns protested only having the NYS Thruway Authority as lead agency. We wanted the DEC because the Throughway Authority does not have environmental expertise.. This project traverses hundreds of wetlands and waterbodies and crosses the Hudson twice. Farms, private lands and numerous aquifers will be impacted. The construction alone will build roads through to the pipeline every mile. Just a small spill could have devastating effects,” said Councilwoman Metzger.
The lead agencies will now identify the issues that need to be considered. One of the considerations is the risk of spill or explosion from the trains and barges that now carry much of the Bakken crude which has already caused a major explosion in a Quebec suburb. The pipeline applicant claims the pipeline will be a better alternative. The trains run on tracks along the Hudson River where spills would be an environmental catastrophe.
Kate Hudson, the attorney for RiverKeeper stated in the recent documentary, “A Pipeline Runs Through It,” by Ocean 8 Films, “We have no fuel supply problems in New York State... This is once again, a project that is going to be passing through New York, through six heavily populated counties, and all these counties are going to get all of the risk and none of the benefit.”
The documentary can be seen here: