Friday, February 5, 2016

Citizen Comment: Jim Hill to Town Council, Feb 3, 2016

Good evening, Mr. Chair and Fellow Town Councilors, I’m James Hill and I live at 5 Gloucester Dr.

I’m here as a follow-up to the No Spectra Natural Gas Pipeline presentation of January 6th. I’m not here tonight to talk about the environmental damage caused by fracking and gas leaks. I’m not here to talk about exporting natural gas or having to pay an additional utility fee to pay for the pipeline. And I’m not here to restate that the Attorney General and the Conservation Law Foundation reports indicate that there’s no need for another pipeline.

I’m here to share the concerns of many residents of Franklin who worry about the safety of gas pipelines. At the Spectra Energy Open House two weeks ago, we observed aerial views of the existing and proposed pipelines. We’ve been to many of these areas and observed that the current pipeline appears to be within twenty feet of some homes, and close to many others. Most of these homes were built after the pipeline was installed in 1963, and before people knew the potential dangers. According to the PHMSA, the HCAs (High Consequence Areas) are at least a 660’ radius. According to a Spectra employee, the old 24-inch Algonquin pipe contains about 700lbs per square inch of pressure and the proposed 30” line would be at least that. In some areas on the Spectra maps the current pipe and the proposed pipe appear to be very close each other.

Given the fact that there was a serious gas leak in Medway on January 5, the close location of these pipes is frightening to us. According to a January 6th Milford Daily News article, several homes were evacuated for six hours while the leak was repaired. In addition to the Medway Fire Department, the Milford, Millis and Holliston fire departments were on hand. In our opinion, the fact that the pipes, in some areas, will be within feet of each other would increase the incineration zone exponentially. If one pipeline exploded, the other probably could too. A leak and a spark would cause a catastrophic event. This could have happened in Medway or here given the fact that gas leaks are common. 

According to the US Department of Transportation’s Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration from 1994 through 2013, there were 110 serious incidents with interstate gas transmission pipelines, resulting in $448,900,333 in property damages, 195 injuries and 41 deaths. From 2002 to 2015 there were 589 resolved civil penalty cases totaling $47, 447,675. At this time there are another 637 open cases with proposed penalties of $64,856,000.

On November 30, 2015 Steve Aklquist of RI wrote an article based on an interview with two former safety inspectors who worked for Spectra in nearby Burrillville, Rhode Island. The two safety inspectors were working on a section of Spectra Energy’s AIM pipeline system and stated that the company cut corners when it came to project, worker and environmental safety. 

Cathodic protection
Cathodic protection
One inspector was quoted as saying, “Right now, what they’re hoping to do, is they’re hoping to slam all this through, and then at the end ask for forgiveness,” They’ll say, “Oops, sorry about that, I didn’t know, let me write you a check. Because once this thing’s turning meter, they’re going to be making millions of dollars a day. It doesn’t matter what your problems are.” According to the article the other inspector added , “These pipes have to last underground for at least 50 years…. If there’s the smallest mistake in their cathodic protection, that’s what’s going to corrode. All of a sudden you’ve got, even at 800-900 pounds of pressure, doesn’t sound like much, but when you’ve got a 42-inch pipe, traveling that distance and it goes ka-bang, you’re not talking about taking out a block, you’re talking about taking out a large area. You’re talking about a humongous ecological impact, you’re talking about displacing hundreds of families, you’re talking about leveling homes, killing people instantly, I mean, if one of those places were to go up, it’s going to be a bad day.” End of quote.

As I said, we’re not here to talk about the environmental damage caused by gas leaks and fracking. Or the fact that both the Attorney General and the Conservation Law Foundation’s research indicates that there are better ways to address peak winters days than adding another pipeline.

We’re here to say that given the track record of pipelines and the extreme pressure and proposed location of a new pipeline, we ask that you, the Town Council members, consider the safety of our citizens and consider legal ways to protect our town from undesirable development. 

To that end I have emailed each of you a link to a document entitled “Local Government, A Guide to Pipelines” written by the Pipeline Safety Trust with a grant from the US Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration. Thanks for your time.

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