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Meatpacking District Natural Gas Pipeline Approved by Feds

By Andrea Swalec | May 22, 2012 1:09pm | Updated on May 22, 2012 2:09pm

GREENWICH VILLAGE — A Texas-based energy company planning to build a natural gas pipeline that would snake under the Meatpacking District got a big boost Monday, when the federal agency that regulates interstate energy projects unanimously backed the project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that designs by Spectra Energy Corp. to build a nearly 20-mile, $857 million pipeline stretching from Linden, N.J. to under Gansevoort Street will be safe, the agency wrote in an order published online. 

"We agree with the conclusions presented in the final [environmental impact statement] and find that the proposed NJ-NY Project, if constructed and operated as described in the final EIS ... is an environmentally acceptable action," FERC wrote in the order. 

The pipeline — which would be constructed in response to a projected increase in demand for natural gas over the next 30 years — would end on the Gansevoort Peninsula, the landmass that juts out into the Hudson River at Gansevoort Street. The peninsula is currently used by the city Department of Sanitation. 

Spectra praised the ruling and restated its commitment to working with Manhattan and New Jersey residents, some of whom have questioned the environmental impact of the project and expressed concerns about the traffic disruptions created by six months of overnight construction. 

"This milestone is a crucial step toward completing this project, which will provide critically needed pipeline infrastructure and numerous environmental and economic benefits to the region," Spectra president and CEO Greg Ebel said in a statement.

But some neighbors said they were upset by the approval, and pledged to try to block the project.

Community Board 2 chairman Brad Hoylman said he hoped concerned locals would organize to shut down construction of the pipeline, which CB2 opposes.

"We're extremely disappointed that FERC chose to disregard the multitude of safety and environmental concerns raised by Community Board 2 and hundreds of local neighbors about this pipeline, which is a serious accident waiting to happen," he said. 

To be able to proceed with construction, Spectra needs permission from the Hudson River Park Trust to build under the park, for which the Trust would receive a $2.78 million payment. 

Madelyn Wils, president and CEO of the Trust, said at a community meeting Monday night that the group is still evaluating the Spectra plan. 

"We are still putting together all the questions and answers and when they're together they will be made public," she said. 

People who object to FERC's decision have until June 20 to request that the agency reconsider its decision. 

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy told HudsonReporter.com that Jersey City will file a lawsuit to try to block construction of the pipeline. 

The timeline for the project calls for construction to begin in June, with installation of the pipeline under the Hudson River from August to December. 

Use of the pipeline could begin as soon as November 2013, according to Spectra's statement.