Jamaica Bay Pipeline: Analyzing The Concerns, And Transco Williams’ Response

The proposed placement of new natural gas pipelines from Williams and National Grid. (Source: Williams)

The Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (TRANSCO), recently issued a required document in which they addressed concerns about the proposed Rockaway Delivery Lateral Project, commonly known as the Jamaica Bay natural gas pipeline.

Those disturbed by the project, which involves the development of a natural gas pipeline through Jamiaca Bay and Floyd Bennett Field, submitted arguments opposing its approval through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) between May 25 and June 25. These concerns were reviewed by Transco, who responded to them in the government-mandated document on July 9.

Transco claims the Rockaway Lateral Project will provide a new channel for natural gas, increasing its use in residences in New York City. This is meant to help improve air quality by replacing the systems that use fuel oil to heat residences.

But a Sheepshead Bites review of comments submitted reveals that many local activists and individuals believe this project will produce more harm than good. Approximately 60 comments from individuals and organizations representing thousands of people were put forward during this brief scoping period, virtually unanimous in their opposition for reasons relating to safety, environmental risks and health.

In response, Transco replied to some concerns thoroughly, while others were glossed over or overlooked.

HEALTH CONCERNS

The most extensive reply Transco delivered addressed worries about the source of the natural gas for the pipeline and the potential for cancer-causing radon to infiltrate the gas, which will be transmitted to homes from the pipeline.

Critics say that the pipeline will deliver high levels of gas containing radioactive radon to many kitchens, for the pipeline will serve as the source of gas for New York City appliances and boilers.

“Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers,” wrote Trish Gough and several others.

Transco’s response to this concern was by far the most thorough in the document. They stated that the pipeline will use natural gas to replace fuel oil in heating many homes in New York City, which will thereby improve the local air quality and health of the residents. Furthermore, they said that the risks relating to radon exposure are unknown, but expected to be minor.

“Poor air quality directly contributes to health risks and mortality on a greater scale than any alleged risks posed by radon,” Transco said in their statement.

SAFETY AND FIRE RISKS

One of the most frequently-cited problems submitted by residents to FERC is about potential leaks and explosions that could develop from the pipeline.

“Nationwide, pipeline accidents result in, on average, three deaths per week, and injuries and burns more than once a week,” wrote Claire Donohue of the Sane Energy Project, an organization with 3,694 supporters.

Donohue and others feel that placing a pipeline in its proposed location, adjacent to an urban area, shopping mall, and buildings, is inappropriate. In the case of an explosion, they believe that buildings will blow up, and many will die.

In response, Transco said the pipeline will undergo periodic safety inspection and maintenance. Leak surveys on the pipe will be performed, and an internal computerized inspection device known as a “smart pig” will examine the condition of the pipe.

Many also pointed out that Floyd Bennett Field is prone to fires, made riskier due to reports of malfunctioning fire hydrants at the park. A gas pipeline and metering station placed in a fire-prone area is poor planning, critics told FERC.

“It does not appear that there are adequate resources to deal with the potential for fires caused by introducing a massive gas line into this area,” wrote one critic.

Transco feels that this is not a legitimate concern.

“The Transco pipeline is continuously monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through its Gas Control center in Houston,” they wrote.

Transco stated that fires produced by the pipeline can be easily stopped by simply closing the gas source. They believe that no special firefighting unit is required to stop a natural gas fire.

This response is not likely to put residents at ease. They have asserted that the fact that the pipeline is controlled in Texas is an issue, for if a problem closing the pipeline arises, the distance between the controls and the line will create a huge disaster.

Several neighbors stated that the pipeline would put the neighborhood in danger, serving as a potential target of a terrorist attack. Transco did not reply to this concern.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

Transco did not provide as robust a response to concerns regarding the potential offshore impacts of the pipeline, its effects on fish and wildlife, the use of the area for non-recreational purposes (which conflicts with the Gateway Management Plan), and land use impacts.

The pipeline’s potential effect on the wetlands, fish, and wildlife of the area raised concerns from representatives from several environmental organizations. They stated that the metals used in the pipeline and the machines used for its construction could harm the wildlife in the area. Additionally, potential explosions could kill marine life, damage the wetlands, and destroy bird sanctuaries.

According to Transco, the project will not harm the wetlands, and it is designed to avoid animal habitats near the shore. They are now coordinating with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and other agencies to determine the potential effect on species of fish and wildlife, especially those that are endangered, they wrote.

Whether or not this pipeline will become a reality remains unknown. Are the concerns discusses real and serious? If so, can Transco adequately address them and construct the pipeline safely?

A full and detailed list of the concerns addressed by Transco can be viewed on FERC’s website through this link or the documents below.

Here is a compilation of comments submitted to FERC from May 25 to June 25:

Transco Comments

Here is Transco Williams’ response to those comments:

Transco Response
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