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New York Towns Confront Thruway Over Pilgrim Pipelines

December 5, 2015

Kingston, Catskill Resoundingly Reject Thruway Authority on Pilgrim Pipelines Environmental Review; Refer to Thruway’s Conflict of Interest

City of Kingston Reiterates Strong Opposition to Proposed Pipelines, Citing Commitment to Protect Drinking Water and Climate, Reduce Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Update: On Wednesday night, December 2, Rosendale and Plattekill took the same stand that New Paltz, Saugerties, Kingston and Catskill had already taken in opposing the Thruway Authority’s attempt to grab the “Lead Agency” role.

Update: On Thursday, December 3rd, Mike Hein, the Ulster County Executive, issued a statement that Ulster County opposes the Thruway Authority as Lead Agency on the proposed oil and gasoline/refined products pipelines’ environmental review. Ulster County opposes the pipelines being built at all. Hein commented, “It is important to note that the pipeline will not replace the trains,” referring to oil “bomb” trains already endangering New York residents and the Hudson River on their way from Albany, bound for Philadelphia.

Rosendale, New York Town Board

Rosendale, New York Town Board. L to R: Counciman Chris Pryslopski, Councilman Robert Ryan, Supervisor Jeanne Walsh, Councilman John Hughes, Councilwoman Jen Metzger

The City of Kingston, New York, in Ulster County, and the Town of Catskill, New York, in Greene County, both unanimously passed resolutions Monday December 1st 2015, formally objecting to the Thruway Authority’s role as “lead agency” for the environmental review process for the proposed controversial Pilgrim pipelines project.

Alderman Bill Carey, chair of Kingston’s Public Safety Committee and newly appointed Democratic majority leader, sponsored the Resolution.

“I’m thrilled it passed unanimously,” said Julie Noble, Chair of the Kingston, New York Conservation Advisory Council, after the Kingston Common Council’s 9-0 vote Monday night.

“Once again the City of Kingston is helping to lead the charge, as we continue to move in an environmentally sensitive direction, providing leadership locally, regionally and worldwide,” Kingston Alderman Matt Dunn said in his public testimony. “Many organizations here tonight have helped us take this stand against the Thruway Authority’s attempt to inappropriately lead the environmental review.” The formal environmental review process is called SEQR, the State Environmental Quality Review. Kingston’s Resolution recommends the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as the lead agency.

Ulster County Legislator Chris Allen, of Saugerties, also testified in favor of the Resolution: “My concern is that financial enticement to the New York State Thruway Authority creates an allure for the Thruway to permit Pilgrim pipelines to create funding for their infrastructure projects. The Department of Environmental Conservation is the appropriate agency.”

Jennifer Schwartz-Berky, legislator-elect as an Ulster County legislator and member of KingstonCitizens.org, thanked the Kingston Common Council for taking this step in her public testimony in favor of the Resolution last night. “We’re not going to accept deals made behind closed doors. It’s clear there’s a conflict [of interest] with the Thruway Authority. There’s a lot at stake here.”

“Kingston’s Climate Action Plan, in 2012, set goals of reducing fossil fuel dependency and increasing renewables by 2020. That’s one of the reasons Kingston passed the Resolution Opposing Pilgrim Pipelines in January 2015,” added Julie Noble, who is also the Environmental Educator for the City of Kingston’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“Your forward thinking in January 2015, when you passed the Resolution Opposing Pilgrim Pipelines, helps to guide us now,” said Rebecca Martin, of Kingston Citizens. “Almost 10 months later, the Thruway wants Kingston, one of only three cities along the pipelines’ direct path [the other two are Newburgh and Albany], to allow it to be the lead agency. Kingston is declining this request, and acting swiftly.”

Kingston Alderman Brad Will said, “I strongly support tonight’s resolution,” adding, “Our next step will be looking at the oil trains barreling through our city.” Pilgrim’s proposed crude oil pipeline would increase, not decrease, the number of oil trains coming through New York State.

The Catskill Town Board also voted unanimously, 6-0, on December 1, 2015 to oppose the Thruway Authority as Lead Agency for the environmental review of Pilgrim’s proposed pipelines, and to support the Department of Environmental Conservation as the lead agency. This was the first formal action Catskill has taken to confront the pipelines project.

Catskill resident Arielle Herman, who was approached by Pilgrim one year ago because the corporation wants to use her land to build an access road for the proposed pipelines, spoke in favor of the Resolution. She said Pilgrim pipelines would negatively impact land, drinking water, private landowners, businesses and the quality of life in Catskill. “A non-response to the Thruway’s request to be lead agency would be taken as approval for the Thruway to lead the environmental review,” which would be unacceptable, Herman said, urging immediate action.

Arielle Herman with Omar in Catskill

Arielle Herman, a small business owner in Catskill, NY, with her dog Omar at Ramshom Creek. Arielle called Rmshom Creek “one of Catskill’s unique and exquisite natural treasures.” Photo: Patrick Gaucher

“Pilgrim pipelines would run right through our farm,” said Catskill resident Micaela Bulich. She and her husband own Pathfinder Farms, growing grass fed beef in Catskill. Bulich said Pilgrim has approached them, but Pilgrim “changed their story” several times, changing the proposed maps so that the pipeline route would go through their farm, then would not, and now would.

Micaela Bulich and Arielle Herman, both small business owners, commented that the December 16th deadline for all towns to respond to the Thruway emerged right before Thanksgiving, convenient for Pilgrim but challenging for town leaders and residents. “Pilgrim is a for-profit company, and this project is not serving our area. Please protect Greene County,” Bulich said.

Sam Sebren, reporter for WGXC, observed that the “most vocally, vehemently opposed” Catskill resident who spoke up had worked for Exxon. Sebren said the former Exxon employee stated that the proposed Pilgrim pipelines must not be allowed at all: “I have seen the disaster up close. It would destroy our area to allow Pilgrim. The potential for disaster is enormous and it would lower property values to 25% of their original value.”

Fifty-eight towns in New York and New Jersey have publicly and formally opposed the controversial Pilgrim Pipelines being built at all. Resolutions are listed here: www.stoppilgrimpipeline.com.

Notes for Reporters and Editors:

For interviews with Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines-NY: Sue Rosenberg, 845-246-3449, Rosenberg.sue@gmail.com
For interviews with Kingston citizens.org, Kingston Common Council, and Mayor: Rebecca Martin, 845-750-7295, rebeccamartin@kingstoncitizens.org
To interview Arielle Herman, small business owner in Catskill NY: zoekravitsky@gmail.com
Maps, Resolutions from 58 towns, FAQs: www.stoppilgrimpipeline.com

BACKGROUND NOTES

The “conflict of interest” refers specifically to the Thruway Authority’s need for funding for massive infrastructure projects, in particular the Tappan Zee Bridge. The Thruway Authority, according to Pilgrim representative John Casellini, wants to “monetize” the pipelines’ access to the Thruway’s right-of-way, giving them a vested interest in fast-track approval for the proposed pipelines.

As proposed, the pipelines would carry fracked Bakken Shale crude oil south, and gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene north, between Albany, NY and Linden, NJ, with 356 miles of pipe, 5 laterals going to the Hudson River and marine terminals in New Jersey; 4 pump stations in New York State, and other infrastructure in New Jersey. The twin 20″ pipelines would each have the capacity to carry 200,000 barrels per day.

Pilgrim’s draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, includes monumental whoppers, such as a statement that there would be no fire risk from the operation of the pipelines. Oil and gasoline leaking from pipelines have caused fires, including fires that have killed people. Pilgrim’s aggressive proposed schedule shows the “construction phase” April 1, 2016, a date widely known as Fossil Fools Day.

Oil trains in New York State would increase, not decrease, if Pilgrim pipelines are built. An analysis by Stephen Shafer, MD, MPH, has shown that oil trains coming into Albany would triple in order to service Pilgrim pipelines. Riverkeeper, Citizens for Local Power, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and others have pointed out that oil trains heading to Philadelphia from Albany would not be reduced if the unpopular, widely opposed Pilgrim pipelines were to be built.

Millions of people in New York and New Jersey would have their drinking water put at risk by the proposed Pilgrim pipelines. This includes those who drink water drawn from the Ramapo River, the Hudson River, the Karst Aquifer, the Passaic River Basin, and many other rivers, streams and aquifers.

The President and Vice President of Pilgrim Holdings, LLC are both former Koch Industries executives. Pilgrim has never built any other pipeline, so the Koch Industries connection is their only established track record related to pollution and ethics.

Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, is the only entity which has funded more climate denial networks than Exxon. Exxon is currently being investigated by the New York State Attorney General for its climate cover-up.

Koch Industries received the largest fine in U.S. history, $30 million for 300 oil spills from its oil pipelines. Koch Industries is the largest non-Canadian investor in the exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada and is a major force behind the current push to lift the ban on export of domestic U.S. oil even as the world struggles, in Paris, to reach modest carbon reduction goals.

These modest goals, if achieved but not surpassed, would condemn the world to approximately 6 degrees of global warming, NASA climate scientist James Hansen of Columbia University, said this week. Scientists say the world must keep 4/5ths of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid passing the tipping point of 2 degrees.

Already, at 1+ degrees, island nations are drowning; heat waves, forest fires, and droughts have become more common; stronger storms combined with sea level rise are hurting hard-hit coastal communities; health impacts are increasing; and ocean acidification, coral bleaching, melting sea ice and warming waters are decimating marine life, from krill to cod.

 

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