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PIPELINE: Lawmaker wants variances denied


The former CNG Transmission Station on Ellis Hollow Creek Road east of Ithaca, now owned by Dominion.
(Photo: file photo)

Dominion Transmission Inc.’s divisive New Market Pipeline project is awaiting approval on several variances before construction can begin, and a state legislator from Ithaca is hoping to urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deny those requests.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, sent two letters last week to state and federal officials regarding the $159 million project to upgrade the existing pipeline, which includes the Borger Compressor Station on Ellis Hollow Creek Road in Dryden.

In the first letter, Lifton urges FERC Secretary Kimberly D. Bose to deny the variances and withhold further approvals for the project. In the second letter, Lifton urges Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation to revoke the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan submitted by Dominion for the project and to clean up the legacy contamination at the Borger Compressor Station and in adjacent wetlands and waterbodies.

The FERC authorized Dominion’s New Market Pipeline project on April 28, 2016, and as preparation began for construction, Dominion determined it would need several more variances. In the request to the FERC on Jan. 24, 2017, Dominion said “certain minor modifications located within the construction Limits of Disturbance for the project are necessary.”

Dominion hopes to add 33,023 horsepower of compression to the existing interstate pipeline transmission system with the new upgrades, which includes the Borger Compressor Station and a new station in Horseheads. At the station in Dryden, Dominion is requesting a variance to encroach upon the 50-foot wetland or waterbody buffer, required in the Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures. Dominion said encroachment is needed within 50 feet of two streams and three wetlands and the “workspace cannot be relocated further from the wetlands or waterbodies as the facilities proposed entail work by either modifying or expanding on existing facilities.”

At the new Horseheads station, Dominion is also requesting a variance to encroach upon the 50-foot stream and wetland buffers. Dominion said the encroachments are necessary to construct the project facilities, including permanent stormwater management facilities.

Both stations’ Limits of Disturbance areas have been reduced: from 40.1 acres to 5.9 acres in Dryden and from 49.1 acres to 19.9 acres in Horseheads.

A spill was reported at the Borger Compressor Station in 1998, when it was owned by CNG Transmission. An investigation showed the concern was from petroleum byproducts including light gas distillates, lubricating oil and glycol. The report shows the soil in a former liquid pit contained more than the accepted level of benzo(a)pyrene — a compound found in tobacco smoke — and groundwater contained more than the accepted levels of several concentrations: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, total xylenes and naphthalene.

The spill was cleaned appropriately according to the DEC, although the full contamination could not be excavated at the time.

“Over the last 18 years, the small pocket of remaining biodegradable soil contamination that could not be excavated has been healing naturally and its volume and concentration are both significantly reduced,” the DEC said in January.

Last July, 22 state legislators signed a letter to Cuomo asking for a moratorium on fossil fuel projects, in addition to a coalition of 1,151 state residents asking for the same thing.