Following their relentless advocacy, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones today announced they have secured an independent review by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to address safety and operational issues of the Algonquin Incremental Market pipeline near Indian Point. In addition, the lawmakers are sending a new letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reinforcing community concerns regarding the safety of the Lower Hudson Valley during the decommissioning process of the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC).
During a September meeting, PHMSA pledged to conduct an independent, comprehensive re-analysis of potential safety risks posed by the Algonquin Incremental Market Pipeline (AIM) through ORNL, in response to a previous letter that the elected officials sent on July 23, 2021. The lawmakers are now calling on PHMSA to exercise oversight on all existing pipelines near Indian Point, including both the 26-inch and 30-inch legacy high-pressure gas pipelines that traverse under IPEC’s facilities and are near the shuttered plant’s Unit 3 reactor, which were installed in 1952 and 1965 before IPEC reactors were licensed to operate. In the letter, the lawmakers reiterated the importance for PHMSA to work with the ORNL to provide a firm timeline on the investigation of all the pipelines and to comprehensively evaluate all inspections reports related to prior testing on structural aging, pipeline integrity, and hazard or seismic studies.
“Our in-person September meeting with local leaders in Westchester County and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration was imperative to addressing safety risks posed by the Algonquin Incremental Market Pipeline near Indian Point,” said the lawmakers. “While we applaud these efforts, it is our duty as federal elected representatives for communities surrounding Indian Point Energy Center to uphold our commitment to transparency and advocate for community voices on the path forward. It is critical that over the course of the decommissioning process there is a clear timeline and standards set for full transparency and good-faith engagement with federal, state, and local officials and stakeholders in the Lower Hudson Valley.”
In late July, Schumer, Gillibrand and Jones sent a letter to PHMSA calling on the agency to immediately work with their Lower Hudson Valley constituents to re-evaluate the safety of the AIM Project and address community concerns regarding the safety of ongoing operations following last year’s disturbing Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report calling into question the accuracy of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project’s safety assessments conducted by Entergy, IPEC’s former owner.
The full text of the letter can be found here and below:
Dear Secretary Buttigieg and Acting Administrator Brown,
We appreciate the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) engagement at the September 30, 2021, in-person public meeting with the community and local elected officials, to discuss the operation of the Algonquin Incremental (AIM) Pipeline during the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) decommissioning process, which resulted from our letter dated July 23, 2021. At that meeting, PHMSA announced its pledge to conduct an independent, comprehensive re-analysis of potential safety risks posed by the AIM Project. Consequently, we write to communicate further requests that the citizen community advocacy group believes should be addressed by the study.
As PHMSA has stated, the third-party investigation by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) must be a careful examination of the safety and risk of the AIM pipeline segment.We reiterate the importance of including the information presented and shared by the community at the September 30, 2021, meeting in the ORNL study and have attached their requests to this letter. The community’s concerns must be heard by PHMSA and the individuals performing the independent analysis on the pipeline. Additionally, as requested in our July 23, 2021, letter, we ask that you work in conjunction with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC), your in-state agent, to ensure that all technical information is included for consideration.
We stand firm that the ORNL study must include a reassessment and review of all past FERC, PHMSA, NRC, and NYSPSC assessments related to the safety of the 26-inch and 30-inch pipelines near IPEC’s Unit 3 as well. Additionally, we support the community’s request for PHMSA to exercise its oversight responsibilities by directing the owner of the Algonquin pipelines, Enbridge, to make available to ORNL all inspection reports related to the existing pipelines – including tests on structural aging management and pipeline integrity, and any hazard or seismic studies. Finally, we ask that PHMSA works with ORNL to provide our constituents with a firm timeline for a completed, thorough re-analysis.
As you know, both legacy gas pipelines, which were installed in 1952 and 1965 before IPEC’s reactors were licensed to operate, traverse directly under the power plant’s property and are in closer proximity than the AIM pipeline to IPEC’s non-working reactors and waste storage facilities. According to the NRC’s letter dated May 27, 2020, to the NYS Public Service Commission, although the AIM line is larger at 42-inches and transports higher pressured gas, the legacy lines still have significant potential impact radii that includes critical IPEC infrastructure.
In light of the significant concerns raised by the NRC Office of Inspector General’s February 2020 report confirming that FERC relied heavily on flawed safety risk analyses when it granted approval for the siting and construction of the AIM Project, we cannot overstate the value and benefit of taking into consideration the potential for seismic and accident risk from the legacy pipelines when doing any reviews of pipeline safety at IPEC in order to protect human life and the environment. Anything less would be insufficient.
Thank you for your attention to these matters, and we hope that you will take actions to address these concerns. Should you or your staff wish to further discuss these issues, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.