Minisink Story

The Minisink Story:

Episode 1: Throwing Stones at Goliath

 

Part 2: Throwing Stones at Goliath

 

The Town of Minisink is a traditional, down-to-earth, middle-class American town in Orange County, New York and is actually made up of three towns; Westtown, Unionville and Johnson. We are farmers, NYC firemen and police, nurses, teachers, plumbers, electricians, and various commuting professionals. A large influx of new young families moved into the town over the last ten years. Most residents did not know what a compressor station was just a year ago. Many dedicated members of the community have put in thousands of hours of research to sort fact from fiction, and have become very knowledgeable about natural gas compressor stations and the industry.

What is a Compressor Station? According to Wikipedia, a compressor station is a facility which helps the transportation process of natural gas from one location to another. Natural gas, while being transported through a gas pipeline, needs to be constantly pressurized in certain distance intervals (from 40 up to 100 miles).  The gas in compressor stations is normally pressurized by special turbines, motors and engines. For a more in-depth look into the transportation of natural gas and the role of compressor stations click here.

Minisink residents are rightfully concerned about the proposed compressor station for a multitude of reasons.  Safety, health, and economic impacts are some of the primary concerns.  The site that has been chosen is surrounded by approximately 240 homes and residential lots within a half mile. The closest home is only 650 feet away! Minisink is supported by a wonderful volunteer fire department. However, due to our small volunteer fire departments and lack of equipment, the area could not handle a large scale incident at a compressor station. The closest burn unit is in Westchester County, New York. We do not have a reverse 911 system or fire hydrants.  The Town of Minisink does not have a local police department.  Even a small evacuation of the area would be near impossible. It is very likely by the time support arrived to assist residents it would be too late. This begs the question, should industrial sites that have the potential for large scale explosions and devastation be placed in residential areas that do not have the emergency support?  Isn’t the best “fail safe” to put compressor stations far from residences and families?

Health impacts are another enormous concern.  No cumulative long term health impact studies (HIS) have ever been completed on residents living in close proximity to compressor stations.  Formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds are some of the emissions estimated and listed on the gas company’s Air Safety Application permits. Considering what has happened in Dish, Texas and Bradford County Pennsylvania, why is the industry still refusing to guarantee our safety and health under threat of severe financial penalty, or at least willing to conduct a HIS?  The gas company hired engineering firms to do air and noise sampling.  There have not been any gas industry independent base lines taken.  The compressor station will run 24/7 365 days a year and other compressor stations are being planned for the area.  These additional compressor stations will only add to the cumulative impact.  Our community has several sensitive receptors to air pollution.  There are children within a half mile of the site that are severe asthmatics and the community has several 9/11 first responders with documented lung damage. Many of the 9/11 first responders were urged by their physicians to move to Minisink for the fresh air.  Again, why take a risk when there are other alternatives?  How much risk would you take? 

Leaks were found on the Millennium pipeline in January 2011.  These leaks were due to faulty welds and by installing segments of pipeline that had failed inspection.  Considering the company’s safety record, should they be even considering installing a compressor station in a residential/agricultural area?  The company has been forced to reduce pressure on the line as a safety precaution.

How much economic impact will Minisink residents have to endure with the construction of facility of this magnitude in their town?  There have not been any studies done to confirm an economic impact on compressor station host communities.  However, common sense should dictate here.  Most families when looking for a home do not see a compressor station as a positive addition to a town.  If you were looking for a home, would you buy one across the street from a compressor station?  Would you buy a home 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile or more from a compressor station?  Residents of Minisink are rightfully worried about the economic impact compressor stations will have on our community.  The gas company of course claims there will be no impact whatsoever.  Minisink residents do not want to take the risk and trust a company’s “word for it”  when gigantic profits for the gas company are at stake.  Many families will not want to buy a home or continuing living in one when a compressor station is your neighbor.  The economic fallout is loss of tax payers and incoming future tax payers to a community.  Residents who want to move will be unable to sell their homes and may be forced to make a choice; stay in their home with the possibility of health and safety risks, or walk away from their largest financial investment for their family’s health and safety security. What benefit, if any, is there for Minisink to host a compressor station?  Due to the current payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) agreement,  Minisink will not see any tax revenue from construction of this project.  Millennium Pipeline’s own former president told residents, “There is no benefit to the town.”  So again we ask the question, should a compressor station be constructed in a residential/agricultural area when the town will see no benefit and consume all the risk? 

What makes our case different than so many is that there is a viable and reasonable alternative site location.  This site, also known as the Wagoner Station, is already owned by Millennium Pipeline and held a compressor station in the past.  If constructed, instead of a 12,260 horsepower station that would be in Minisink, a single 5,100 horsepower turbine would be required.  This single smaller turbine would use less natural gas to run the facility and as a result would cause less pollution.  There are NO homes within .75-mile from the Wagoner site.  In Minisink there are homes with small children only 650 feet away from the compressor station proposed location.  If the alternative site is chosen, a 7.2-mile segment of the pipeline called the Neversink Segment would need to be replaced.  In 2008 the entire 180 mile pipeline was changed from 24 inch to 30 inch pipe except for the Neversink Segment.  As a result, there is now a bottleneck in the pipeline highway.  If this segment of pipe is replaced now, the smaller compressor station would be used at the alternative location, a neighborhood would be saved and a more efficient system put in place.  This segment of pipeline is scheduled to be replaced in 2014 regardless of where the compressor station is constructed.

For many it is obvious the main concern for Millennium Pipeline is profits. Throughout the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process Millennium has mentioned demand to shippers over and over again.  While the company is profiting, a community will be unsure of the cumulative health impacts, most likely lose equity in their homes, and live day to day without the certainty the compressor station has been constructed correctly or operated precisely to avoid an explosion or mishap.  This can all be resolved by placing a facility such as this in an industrial site or far from families homes.  Where is the common sense?

Please review FERC (www.Ferc.gov) Docket No. CP11-515 for more information and read fully residents concerns!