New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged federal energy regulators on Monday to suspend construction on a Spectra Energy Corp. natural-gas pipeline that he said may pose safety risks because of its proximity to a nuclear power plant.
Work on an expansion of the Algonquin gas pipeline should be suspended until the state has the chance to analyze the safety of such a gas network being located within miles of Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, Cuomo said in a statement Monday.
Cuomo’s call adds to the mounting pressure Spectra’s project is facing from policy makers and environmental groups. New York state assembly members David Buchwald and Sandy Galef, both Democrats, said last year that U.S. regulators approved the expansion without properly assessing its risks. The growing concerns threaten to delay the the start of a project more than two years in the works.
"The safety of New Yorkers is the first responsibility of state government when making any decision," Cuomo said. "I am directing my administration to commence an immediate independent safety analysis of the natural gas pipeline project and until that occurs, we urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to suspend the project."
Cuomo, who has long fought for the closing of the Indian Point plant, said state agencies are already looking into multiple unplanned shutdowns at the nuclear site, as well as a transformer fire and a radioactive leak.
Spectra and Entergy have already agreed that the gas project would be designed and built taking safety measures “above and beyond what is required by federal law,” Marylee Hanley, a spokeswoman for Spectra, said in an e-mailed statement. “Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline system has been operating safely in the area for more than 60 years.”
The Algonquin Incremental project will provide New England with another 342,000 dekatherms a day of gas capacity. It’s scheduled to be completed in November, helping ease a bottleneck for the glut of gas trapped in the Marcellus shale formation of the eastern U.S.