HRPT Approves Spectra Easement

A disgraceful display of influence over intelligence reigned at the June 18th HRPT board meeting. One observer who was present filed a report:

The Hudson River Park Trust Board of Directors heard a presentation by Spectra, Con Ed, and the Mayor’s office at their 11am Monday morning meeting. The large number of public comments against the proposal was duly noted. At the end of the presentation, the board voted against granting a 30-year license agreement to the Spectra Pipeline.

Chair Diana Taylor realized what had happened and admonished the board about how serious this project is and then a roll call vote was requested. Pam Frederick, one of the Borough President’s appointees, switched her “no” to a “yes” vote and the agreement was approved 8 to 2. (Taylor thanked Frederick.) The two who remained in opposition were the BP’s other appointee, Larry Goldberg, and one gubernatorial appointee, Paul Ullman.

When Goldberg brought up the issue of “natural gas worries” during the presentation, the Spectra reps responded that probably 10 percent of the gas delivered by the pipeline would be fracked, but that it would be hard to tell because the gas would be coming from different places. Then Chair Taylor said, “This is not the right forum for this issue,” thereby ending any discussion of fracking.

The rationale Cas Holloway presented for the pipeline was that “gas is cleaner” than No. 6 oil. This statement conflicts with statements made by a “Clean Heat” expert at a recent Green Homes NY presentation that “low-sulfur #2 oil creates less particulate matter than gas.” Another mayoral rep at the HRPT meeting said that peak gas demand exceeds utility pipeline capacity and that boiler conversions will increase the demand for gas–if 50% of bldgs converted, peak demand would increase 29%. (Of course, only 1% of buildings are required to stop using number 6 oil, and they are not required to switch to gas.) Contrasting with the Howarth Cornell University study, which shows that the GHG lifecycle footprint of gas is worse than coal or oil, he claimed that greenhouse gas lifecycle emissions were 20% better with gas than the alternatives of 6, 4, 2 oils.

In answering questions from board member Paul Ullman, Project Director Ed Gonzalez and Christian di Palermo from Spectra discussed safety issues. Ullman asked and ascertained that no relative risk assessment had been done with respect to the park.  He asked specifically if Spectra had considered an explosion; they responded that pipelines are safe and that there’s “enhanced safety here.” Holloway said that the FDNY and police will have plan in case of an accident; Ullman wanted to know about planning PRE-explosion.  Gonzalez repeated the usual litany of the thickness of the pipe wall, the amount of pressure, monitoring and maintenance.

The public was not allowed to speak during the meeting. No one presented any reasons to oppose the pipeline. No one mentioned that at least 2/3 of all U.S. gas is fracked, that there is no hospital in the area, or that Homeland Security considers cyber attacks to be a real threat to pipelines. No one objected that the vote had to be taken twice to achieve the desired result. No one objected to the close relationship between the Chair of the board, Diana Taylor, and the Mayor (the latter being the main supporter of this pipeline and the former being his girlfriend).

Albert Amateau of The Villager was the only press there.

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