Setting the Record Straight
Based on recent feedback in the community concerning the Access Northeast Project, several concerns and questions were mentioned and we want to take this opportunity to provide some clarity on these questions.
- Are pipelines safe?
Regulatory authorities, including the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”), have established that natural gas transmission pipelines are the safest method of transporting energy products. The companies developing the Access Northeast project have decades of collective experience in safely designing, planning, constructing, operating and maintaining a vast network of natural gas pipelines. Safety is our number one priority. Our dedication to continuously improve operational safety practices stems from a relentless focus on protecting the people within the communities where we operate, our employees and the environment. While we already have a strong safety record and implement rigorous safety practices, our goal is zero incidents. No incident is acceptable. When issues are identified, we work hard to quickly, safely and properly remedy the situation as well as learn from them in order to continuously improve.
- Is liquefied natural gas (LNG) safe?
Liquefying natural gas reduces its volume, making it easier to transport and store long-term so it can be vaporized and made available to generate electricity for customers during peak demand periods. The LNG industry’s highest priority has been safety and security, which is reflected in the industry’s enviable safety record. There have been no safety incidents during the 40 + years in which the existing Acushnet LNG facility has been in operation.
- How does Algonquin control methane leaks from the pipeline?
Leaks rarely occur on the Algonquin Gas Transmission (“Algonquin”) system’s pipelines or interstate pipeline systems in general. Recent misconceptions about natural gas leaks have been centered on distribution systems. The regulations that govern distribution systems and how they are designed, constructed, and operated are entirely different than the regulation of interstate transmission systems.
Algonquin's pipelines are designed, constructed, operated, and maintained to meet or exceed federal safety standards and regulations. Algonquin personnel regularly perform visual inspections of the pipelines on foot, by vehicle and by air in order to proactively identify potential hazards to the integrity of the pipeline (such as third-party excavations). In keeping with U.S. Department of Transportation requirements, leak detection surveys are conducted on the pipeline, at prescribed intervals to identify leakage and, if necessary, make repairs. Further, Algonquin’s Gas Control Center monitors the Algonquin system – in real time – around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and responds immediately to any issues that arise along the system.
- How does Algonquin ensure that communities are aware of their facilities in the area?
Algonquin works closely with local, state and federal agencies to ensure our pipelines meet or exceed regulatory requirements for safety. We also communicate regularly with members of the public who live or work near our pipelines, and we collaborate with organizations that share our dedication to pipeline safety and public awareness. Because of our commitment to safety, Algonquin has been operating safely in the Northeast for more than 60 years.
The Access Northeast project will be built to meet or exceed all U.S. Department of Transportation requirements and will maintain stringent operations and maintenance through a 24/7, 365-day-a-year monitoring program. There are more than 300,000 miles of natural gas pipeline in the U.S. in communities large and small, rural and urban. Pipelines are America’s lifelines, and they operate safely every day across the country.
- How are emergency personnel near the pipeline trained for emergency situations?
Algonquin Gas Transmission has been operating safely in the Northeast for more than 60 years. Over the years Algonquin has developed and enjoyed long-standing relationships with local and regional emergency response officials, who we regularly visit to discuss pipeline safety and emergency preparedness issues. Periodically, company employees and local emergency response personnel come together for emergency drills to test staff readiness and identify improvement opportunities. We also communicate regularly with members of the public who live or work near our pipelines, and we collaborate with organizations that share our dedication to pipeline safety and public awareness.
- How will Access Northeast be designed to protect air quality?
Algonquin Gas Transmission will work closely with federal and state agencies to ensure that air quality standards are adhered to in order to protect the public health, welfare and environment by limiting the levels of pollutants that can occur in the outside air.
Access Northeast’s compressor stations will be designed with the best available state-of-the-art low emission turbine technology fueled by clean natural gas in strict compliance with federal and state regulations. It is expected that regulators will classify Access Northeast’s compressor stations as only minor sources of emissions.
More information can be found in Resource Report 9 when submitted later this year.
- How will Access Northeast protect water quality?
Through every stage of the Access Northeast project, Algonquin Gas Transmission will maintain a vigilant focus on preserving water quality in the communities in which we operate. Beginning with route selection, we thoroughly evaluate all stream and river crossings within the proposed study corridor to identify the most environmentally responsible methods and locations possible.
We take special precautions during construction to control sediment and erosion near streams and rivers, and we coordinate closely with state and federal agencies to minimize impacts on fish and other aquatic wildlife species. The Access Northeast project’s pipeline will not contaminate drinking water or aquifers. The pipeline is made of high-strength steel with epoxy coating, and the natural gas is transported in a gaseous state.
Natural gas is lighter than air, which means in the highly unlikely event that natural gas escapes from the pipeline, the gas can only travel up through the soil into the atmosphere where it dissipates. Because of the depth of the pipeline trench, neither pipeline construction nor operation will pose a risk to groundwater aquifers, which are typically located at much greater depths than the pipeline. Additionally, no toxins will be released during the construction or operation of the facilities that would affect water quality.
- How will Access Northeast protect wildlife, including endangered species?
Algonquin has been coordinating with state and federal agencies for the past six months to identify potential habitat and survey requirements for protected species. Algonquin intends to comply with state and federal wildlife protection requirements.
Resource Report 3 to be filed with the Commission in Docket No. PF16-1-000 will include information on the potential impacts on wildlife and a description of measures Algonquin will employ to mitigate the effects of the Project on existing wildlife and endangered species.
- How is Access Northeast compatible with renewable energy?
New England is gradually positioning itself as a leader in renewable energy, but solar and wind power – which depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing – are intermittent by definition and insufficient on their own to meet the energy demands of the Northeast region. Natural gas complements renewable energy sources when power generators require it the most – during the evenings and during harsh winter conditions. The Access Northeast project will ensure that New England’s electricity generators have enough reliable, clean-burning natural gas to meet consumer demands, such as the winter months when demand spikes.
- How will Access Northeast reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Greater access to natural gas will save residents in the Northeast billions of dollars on their electric bills and substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions throughout the region. A recent study by Wood Mackenzie demonstrates that access to a firm supply of clean-burning natural gas by power generators through the Access Northeast project could eliminate the need for dirtier coal and oil during cold New England winters. Wood Mackenzie found that if Access Northeast had been operational during recent winters such as 2014-15, New England carbon emissions would have been reduced by 3.4 million tons, the equivalent of taking 650,000 cars off the road for a year (that’s 11% of the cars in New England). The Project will ensure that New England has a reliable base of clean electricity as more wind and solar power is utilized in the coming years.
Project Need & Benefits
- Why is Access Northeast needed?
The Independent System Operator for New England (“ISO-NE”) has identified approximately 4,200 megawatts (MW) of natural gas fired generating capacity at risk of not getting sufficient fuel on any given day. Access Northeast is designed to meet the growing demand for energy in New England and will save the region billions of dollars in electric generation costs.
The Access Northeast LNG Facility plays an important role in supporting quick start and non-ratable deliveries, as well as minimizing the need for year round pipeline facilities to meet the winter seasonal need of electric generation. Absent this project, New England will need to rely on oil (for dual fuel generation plants) and imported LNG (at world LNG prices) resulting in higher electric prices and increased environmental emissions.
- What are the Project construction and operation economic benefits to the Northeast?
According to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (“CERC”), Access Northeast -- which will expand the availability of natural gas in six New England states and New York -- will collectively grow these states’ economies by $4.9 billion over the next decade. Increases in labor income represent $2.3 billion of this figure, as the project is expected to generate 2,161 new jobs across the Northeast every year through 2026. CERC also projects that a wide range of industrial sectors will reap the benefits of Access Northeast, from the construction, technical and scientific sectors to the retail trade, health care, and social service sector.
- How will Access Northeast influence property values?
While some people have raised concerns about property values and insurance rates, we want to assure you there is no evidence – even with more than 300,000 existing miles of pipelines in the U.S. – demonstrating that natural gas pipelines affect home loans, property values or insurance costs.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) has researched this issue in-depth and has shared its findings and conclusions in the Environmental Impact Statements for recent projects.
A natural gas pipeline impact study was also conducted at the request of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Foundation (“INGAA Foundation”). Its purpose was to determine the impact of natural gas pipelines on real estate. The study examined data from many different perspectives to identify possible price and non-price impacts to locations along a natural gas pipeline route. The study determined no significant impact on the sales price of properties located along natural gas pipelines, and the pipeline size and product do not make a difference. It also concluded no apparent impact on the marketability of properties located along a natural gas pipeline’s path, and a pipeline does not impede development of the surrounding properties. Additionally, the study concluded the results and conclusions of the study are very likely transferable to situations involving natural gas pipelines in other regions of the country.
- How will Access Northeast be financed?
Access Northeast will put money back in your pocket. A study conducted by ICF International estimates that the majority of the initial investment required for the Access Northeast Project could be recovered from the cost savings realized from a single winter like 2013-14. Developers will cover 100% of the cost of the construction of the pipeline. Electric consumers will pay a small surcharge, similar to existing public benefit charges, for increased gas capacity once the pipeline is finished, but will enjoy significant cost savings overall as the pipeline lowers regional energy costs.
- Will the natural gas for Access Northeast stay in New England?
All of the pipeline capacity for the Access Northeast project relates to agreements between Algonquin Gas Transmission and New England electric distribution companies. The Access Northeast pipeline, which utilizes more than 95 percent of existing pipeline and utility corridors, connects directly to over 60% of the ISO-New England electricity generators.
Once completed, the Access Northeast pipeline will deliver domestic natural gas supplies to Northeast power producers for their electric generation needs. The Access Northeast is not physically or commercially designed to export natural gas internationally. In fact, the exportation of natural gas is an entirely separate permitting process required by the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”), and Access Northeast is not seeking any such approval.
- Will FERC accept comments after the formal scoping period ends?
Algonquin Gas Transmission will be transparent with affected local communities throughout the entire project and welcomes community involvement at all stages of the project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) process is lengthy and includes numerous opportunities for public involvement at all stages of the project. During the scoping period, FERC encourages the public and agencies to provide comments on potential environmental issues for inclusion in the project Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”).
Interested stakeholders will continue to have multiple opportunities during the certificate proceeding to comment on the complete Project details. FERC’s certificate proceeding and the NEPA review will consider all stakeholder comments in determining whether to authorize the Project and in establishing any conditions to mitigate potential adverse environmental effects of the Project.