Rally for 100 percent Clean Energy Nov. 14 at the State Capitol building in Hartford. Photo: Carolyn Shaw.
Gas Pipelines Threaten Health, Environment of Connecticut
MIDDLETOWN - Nervousness; joint and muscle pains; vision impairment; personality changes; depression, anxiety and irritability; confusion, drowsiness and weakness; irregular heartbeat; irritation of skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs; respiratory impacts; sinus problems; allergic reactions; headaches, dizziness, and light headedness; nausea, and vomiting. These are not the effects of some disease, they are the “Acute Health Impacts Experienced by Individuals Living and Working near Compressor Stations,” so states a Feb. 25 “Summary on Compressor Stations and Health Impacts” by the Southwest Environmental Health Project (www.environmentalhealthproject.org ).

       So, is there a compressor station near your home or business in Middletown? If so, what is it doing here besides causing acute health problems? There is a compression station in Cromwell, about one mile from the border between Cromwell and Middletown; two other stations are in Oxford and Chaplin. A compressor station is a facility located every 40 to 70 miles along a fracked natural gas pipeline, which compresses highly pressurized gas to a specified pressure to allow it to continue traveling along the pipeline to the intended recipient. The U.S. EPA states that “new compressors on gas pipelines are the cause of 57 percent of pipeline leakages of methane into the air.”

       “Fracking” is how natural gas is extracted from shale by pumping high-pressure fresh water, chemicals and sand through a well drilled down about two miles below ground into a shale formation, fracturing the rock and releasing the gas to flow back up through the well to the surface.

       Although natural gas produces 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal, “the leakage of raw unburned methane reduces its benefit over coal. The estimated leakage of gas production and transmission accounts for 25 percent to 33 percent of all methane emissions in the U.S., which is equivalent to releasing about 50 tons of carbon dioxide info the atmosphere,” according to a PSE Health Energy Science Summary from March, 2014.


       Other Gas Pipelines Planned for Connecticut

       One pipeline currently operating is the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, constructed in the 50s by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, L.L.C. (TGP), a Subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Products. The company proposes the Connecticut Expansion Project to “upgrade its existing system within New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.” The Connecticut compressor stations will be expanded to pressurize the gas every 40 to 100 miles. There are also 13 metering and regulation stations (MR) in Connecticut and valves every five to 12 miles along the pipeline in case part of the pipeline has to be isolated. The project will add approximately 13.49 miles of pipeline looping in Albany County, N.Y., Berkshire and Hampden Counties, Mass.; and Hartford County. Looping “involves the installation of new pipeline segments adjacent to connecting with existing pipelines to add incremental capacity,” according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

       Kinder Morgan estimates the project would “provide about 175 temporary construction jobs” and construction would “be expected to be completed by November, 2016, so that the additional gas supplies would be available for the 2016-17 winter heating season.”

       Kinder Morgan also reports that Connecticut Natural Gas, Eversource Energy and Southern Connecticut Gas have signed long-term agreements with TGP for the additional transportation capacity of the CT Expansion.

       Four additional pipeline projects have been proposed. The Tennessee company plans to upgrade its existing pipeline system in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut. This Northeast Energy Direct Project (NED), to be built by Spectra Energy, consists of a total of 188 miles of new pipeline construction, “generally co-located with existing utility corridors.”

       The Tennessee company states that “This segment also includes additional meter stations, compressor stations and modifications to existing facilities in the four states.” Tennessee will also build the high-pressure Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline through New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It will carry fracked gas from the Marcellus shale fields in Pennsylvania from Danbury to Putnam, beginning with the expansion of the metering and regulatory station in Willimantic. It will run across the state, specifically in the towns of Cromwell, Chaplin, Glastonbury, Montville, Southbury, Middletown, Guilford and Willimantic, with compressor or metering stations in those towns. Construction will begin soon to expand the Cromwell and Chaplin compressor stations. Ground has already been broken at Willimantic and construction will continue across the entire state of Connecticut.

       Nearly half of the fracked natural gas will be transmitted to a facility in Nova Scotia for overseas export to Asia, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to countries who will pay four times the price of the gas. DOE and the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) have said that if we export domestically fracked gas overseas, market demands are going to cause this price to increase for domestic consumers.

       Sen. Richard Blumenthal has expressed concern about the DOE’s approval of export of natural gas from Maine to Canada, because the increased price for American consumers suggests it is not in the public’s interest.

       One loop of the AIM Pipeline, the Northeast Energy Direct Project (NED) will run from East Granby to Farmington and cut across Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) property, including the West Hartford Reservoir. The Aug. 10 issue of the West Hartford Patch reported the concerns that MDC CEO Scott Jellison expressed: “The proposed pipeline could potentially impact MDC’s water supplies in the greater Hartford region, especially the West Hartford and Reservoir 6 facilities.”

       MDC asked for a public meeting with Kinder Morgan about these concerns. Kinder Morgan agreed to the meeting, but failed to publicize it. The MDC has denied Kinder Morgan access to MDC property for surveys until it receives all relevant information.


       Threats to Environment and Human Health from Gas Pipelines

       New studies reveal two kinds of emissions from compressor stations. Fugitive emissions are uncontrolled or under-controlled releases occuring from equipment leaks and evaporative sources. Fugitive emissions will increase over time as machinery begins to wear. Compressor blowdowns, scheduled or accidental, produce the largest single emission at a compressor station. The entire blowdown may last up to three hours. It will include the constituents of natural gas: methane, ethane and other hydrocarbons.


       Radioactivity and Toxicity

       A 2008 publication of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers stated a concern that the gas transiting, being compressed and regulated will have radioactivity levels which will put at risk not only the workers at these stations and along the pipeline, but potentially also to the general public.

       Exposures to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at compressor stations can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, fatigue, loss of coordination, allergic skin reaction, nausea and memory impairment. Long-term effects include loss of coordination and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system. VOCs, such as benzene, formaldehyde and styrene, are known or suspected carcinogens. Increased incidence of leukemia have been observed in humans occupationally exposed to benzene, a carcinogen that carries its own risk; there is also growing evidence that benzene is associated with childhood leukemia.


       Residents and Environmentalists Launch Protests

       Martha Klein, of the Connecticut Sierra Club, quoted remarks of physicist and head of Eastern Connecticut Green Action, Dr. Gary Bent, about the AIM project: “Natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas. Release of natural gas from leaks, venting and flaring...make it unlikely that natural gas, which is primarily methane, is 86 times worse than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a period of 20 years.”

       Environmental activists and residents have also protested the AIM pipeline in Willimantic, Guilford, West Hartford, Danbury, North Windham and many towns in New York and Massachusetts.

       “Amazingly, residents of Connecticut have not heard about the enormous expansion of fracked gas pipelines, power plants and compressor and metering stations that just started this month [July],” Klein said in a press release by Connecticut Sierra Club.

       On Nov. 22, 2013, a decision by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved, with modifications, a regulatory model for the Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation, The Southern Connecticut Gas Company and Yankee Gas Services Company, which will allow the companies to carry out a large-scale natural gas expansion plan, pursuant to the governor’s 2013 Comprehensive Energy Strategy for Connecticut.

       Yet, in July, Governor Malloy’s Earth Day announcement established the new Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) and “reaffirmed the state’s ambitious goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2001 levels by 2050. The governor charged the GC3 with designing a plan to meet that goal and to mobilize our people and institutions to make it happen” (CTclimateandjobs.org).

       The Connecticut Sierra Club urged residents to protest gas pipeline expansion Nov. 21 at the State Capitol to tell Governor Malloy that they demand clean, renewable energy controlled by the community and challenge his support for more fracked gas pipelines through our state. The rally was organized by 350.org and endorsed by 34 different environmental organizations in Connecticut alone.

       Kinder Morgan states that “expansion of gas pipelines to upgrade its existing system within New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut is developed to meet increased demand in the U.S. Northeast for transportation capacity for natural gas, a clean, environmentally friendly energy source produced domestically.”

       However, The Boston Globe reported Nov. 18, that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who, by law, represents consumers in utility cases, commissioned a study by the Analysis Group on the need for more natural gas pipelines. The study concluded that increasing energy efficiency and encouraging electricity users to scale back their use when demand and prices are high would keep the lights on and save consumers $146 million per year through 2030 even on the coldest of winter days, “with or without electric ratepayer investment in new natural gas pipeline capacity.” This study applied to all of New England.

       “The New England region,” reported WBUR 90.9, Boston’s NPR station, “does not need additional natural gas pipelines to maintain a reliable flow of energy for the next 15 years.”

       “This study demonstrates that we do not need increased gas capacity to meet electric reliability needs, and that electric ratepayers shouldn’t foot the bill for additional pipelines,” Healey affirmed in a press statement.


       NOTE: Part two of this story will appear in the January Middletown Chronicle.