What Ulster County Residents Need to Know about the Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline
by Dylan Taft
on Friday, January 27th, 2017 at 12:34pm.
Surely you’ve heard about the controversy stemming from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that have taken place over the past few months across the country, but did you know that, if you’re an Ulster County resident, this type of issue hits much closer to home, possibly more than you have realized?
Enter the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline - a crude & refined oil transportation pipeline stretching from Albany, New York to Linden, New Jersey and traversing straight through our home here in Ulster County. Just like other oil pipelines across the country, the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline is facing opposition left and right from local residents, town officials, environmental agencies, and the like. While reports about the pipeline stress the need for an environmentally friendly way to transport oil, and the economic benefits and job creation that would come along with it, many people aren’t convinced that any of these ‘pros’ actually serve to benefit them, their communities, or the environment.
This Saturday, January 28th, 2017 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, KingstonCitizens.org will hold a public forum and panel to discuss the proposed pipeline’s affects on our area, our homes and our environment. “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need to Know and How Local Action Makes Global Impacts” will be held at the Kingston City Hall and all local residents are encouraged to attend to learn more about the proposed pipeline and its potential effects, through panel discussions, presentations and a short film called “Hudson River at Risk 6: A Pipeline Runs Through It.”
What You Should Know About the Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline
Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC, a Connecticut based firm, has filed for permits to develop a northeastern pipeline route that would carry refined petroleum products (gasoline, diesel, heating oil, aviation fuel, etc) from Linden, New Jersey northbound to Albany, New York, and conversely, would carry crude shale oil from Albany to downstate refineries.
These two parallel running pipelines would stretch 170 miles each, crossing through 5 New Jersey counties and 6 New York counties (Ulster being one of them). While much of the route is planned to use existing utility and highway Rights of Way, (here in New York specifically, much of the route would follow the New York State Thruway) additional tracts of private property would be necessary to complete the project.
Environmental concerns brought up by the DEC and NYS Thruway Authority has triggered the need for a full review of the proposal under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Some of the specific areas of concern surrounding the Pilgrim Pipeline include:
The potential for the pipeline to cause erosion of soil containing pollutants, which would then send pollutants into local bodies of water.
The fact that the pipelines would cross over bodies of water at 257 locations along the route, and traverse through 9.2 miles of wetlands.
The location of two major aquifers along the route and the crossing of the Catskill and Delaware aqueducts which are operated by New York City.
Pump and meter stations proposed to be built within 100-year floodplains.
Pipelines traversing more than 20 acres of agricultural land, including 5.8 miles of prime farmland and 7.6 miles of farmland of statewide importance.
Pipelines proposed to be in close proximity to at least 8 public parks.
Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings argues that their pipeline would create a more environmentally friendly way to transport crude and refined oil products, without having to ship via barges on the Hudson River, and that the pipeline’s creation would create local jobs and spur our economy. While their statements do hold some weight, CAPP, the Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline, actually broke down each argument, point by point, to discern if the positive benefits could outweigh the potential negative side-effects of a project of this nature. The dissection of these points, which can be viewed in full here, doesn’t ease any worries surrounding the project and only further stresses the point which many local residents have already come to- this is an “all risk, no reward” situation.
The Main Reasons for Opposition
When it boils down to it, the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline hits two major sources of opposition; the first being the potential impact on the environment and the second being the burden that it puts on our local communities. It is when looking into these areas of concern that many locals have determined that the project comes with too many risks to outweigh the few, smaller, positive side effects it could create.
#1: The Environmental Impact
In a time where we’ve been told repeatedly of the need to search for and create cleaner, safer, renewable energy resources to protect our environment and it’s resources, any crude oil pipeline project would have been met by resistance from some. While there is no doubt that our nation has been and still is dependent upon oil, can real strides and changes be made to this dependency while we continue to build around and encourage the structures that promote expansion of the industry? Not to mention, to extract the crude shale oil to be shipped downstate, we’re now breaching the equally controversial topic of fracking, which comes with it’s own set of environmental issues and contributes to climate change, water depletion, toxic emissions and more (but that is a topic for another day!)
Before getting too far away from the major point here, let’s first take a step back for a moment, off of the general global concern regarding this topic and look at it through Pilgrim Pipeline lenses… Just the act of building the pipeline will drastically affect the ecosystems and open spaces that the pipeline would pass through. As noted above, many farms and wetlands would be impacted by the route and multiple species of endangered native animals have been noted to inhabit some of the planned routes, including the black-crowned Night heron, bald eagle, red-shouldered hawk, barred owl, turtles, bobcats and more. By disrupting the habitats of these animals, and the flora and fauna needed to survive, we could also be wiping out some of these species altogether- and that is in a ‘best case scenario’ version with just the creation of the pipeline. Should we experience a leak or break in the pipeline, things could get dramatically worse for our environment. With the projected path of the pipeline traversing so many waterways, wetlands and aquifers, should a leak occur, it has the potential to be a very widespread issue, not just for the surrounding wildlife and environment, but for us as well, should it affect produce grown on local farms or water sources.
#2: The Community Burden
What happens to our communities should this pipeline deal come to fruition? Few of us, on a local level, will see an immediate benefit of this project, but the more we look into it, it feels like the pipeline could be more of a burden than a blessing.
From the very beginning, the local community will have to bear the burden of construction and traffic. The New York State DEC estimates that 79% of the mainline pipe would run along the New York State Thruway’s ROW- and while the Pilgrim Pipeline Corporation uses this as a positive to show the minimal need for private land use across the project- the DEC and Thruway Authority see this as ‘unprecedented use’. Just in Ulster County alone, the towns affected by this Thruway usage include Saugerties, Kingston, Hurley, Rosendale, New Paltz and Plattekill. It is estimated that 40,000 vehicles travel this portion of the Thruway daily. Construction could impact travel on one of our area’s most heavily used highways and in the event of a leak or a spill in the pipeline, could have the potential to completely shut down the road, meaning traffic would have to be diverted to local backroads, which could lead to long term infrastructure deterioration on a local level, should it ever amount to such a thing.
Other immediate effects of the pipeline project could impact homeowners along or near the proposed routes. Property value decline is something many homeowners are concerned about, in addition to the impacts that pipeline could have on their homes and health. While oil infrastructure has improved over the years, it is still susceptible to leakage and corrosion issues, crude Bakken shale oil is a highly volatile substance. Should problems arise, it is our local community that is severely impacted; it’s our local emergency response teams responding to dangerous calls, our families facing the long-term health side-effects, and our way of life being altered.
What Can We Do?
Now is the time to learn as much as we can about this proposed Pilgrim Pipeline and all the ways it can impact our environments, our homes and our lives! Start by attending the event this Saturday at Kingston City Hall to learn more about the project on a local and global level. After getting all the facts, you can support the opposition to the pipeline by standing with your town municipal offices, state legislators and coalition members to stop the advance of the project and keep these lands the way they were intended to be.
To Learn More:
The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need to Know and How Local Action Makes Global Impacts