MINISINK, N.Y. (AP) — After four months helping in ground zero recovery post-Sept. 11, New York City Police Officer Nick Russo sought respite by moving with his family to the rolling hills of Orange County, on the northern fringe of the metropolitan area.
The county has gotten a reputation as a haven for generations of retired or commuting police and firefighters from the city; the hamlet of Westtown wears the nickname "Guns & Hoses."
"I had restricted lung breathing, stomach problems" related to breathing toxic dust at ground zero, Russo said. "I just wanted to get away from all the pollution in the city."
Now, Russo and others in the town of Minisink are battling what they say is another health threat. He has banded with other residents to fight the $43 million Minisink Compressor Project on the Millennium Pipeline, designed to help ease the power crunch in New York City, an hour's drive to the south.
"So I move up here, next to the beautiful cows and farms," Russo said. "And now here I am fighting a compressor station on farmland right down the road."
Compressor station opponents in the town of about 4,400 residents wants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider a proposal by the residents to put the industrial facility on a more remote company-owned site that's farther from homes and farms. Their last-ditch lawsuit pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals seeks to halt construction and revoke the commission's permit. A decision is expected by the end of February.
Opposition to natural gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to tap gas-rich shale deposits has been the primary focus of environmental groups in New York for years. While the state doesn't allow shale gas development yet, there are many battles against the growing number of pipelines and compressor stations needed to bring gas from around the country to meet New York City's insatiable demand for it.
Compressor stations are needed at intervals along a pipeline to pressurize the gas and keep it moving. Opponents in Minisink worry about air emissions of acidic gases and small particles that would fall on nearby farmland. The station would also cause ground vibrations and noise from the compressors, which the company says are "whisper quiet."
Some people living near compressor stations in other parts of the country have reported chronic sore throats, headaches, nosebleeds and other ailments. There haven't been any scientific studies linking illness specifically to compressor stations, but a major study in Fort Worth, Texas, found that large compressor stations might exceed some pollution standards.
Millennium, based in Pearl River, N.Y., received final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September for the plant, which resembles a large green barn with two silos.
The "silos" are actually smokestacks for the two 6,130-horsepower natural gas-powered compressors that will take gas from a 30-inch pipeline and send it at a higher velocity into a 24-inch one. The pipeline, which spans 182 miles across southern New York, carries gas from fracking in neighboring Pennsylvania as well as gas from Louisiana, Texas, and Canada. It went online in 2008.
"This project has undergone a rigorous review and passed," Steve Sullivan, a spokesman for Millennium Pipeline Co., said of the Minisink station. "One of the main points of the review was the impact to air quality."
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