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EPA Touts Algonquin AIM Project's 'Air Quality Benefits'

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) office in New England says it appreciates the air quality benefits that will accrue from Algonquin Gas Transmission’s Incremental Market (AIM) expansion slated to bring 342,000 Dth/d to the region, while at the same time expressing some concerns about other potential environmental impacts.

The agency said it believes that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) "has identified many of the environmental concerns that should be fully examined in the EIS," including impacts to wetlands, drinking water, groundwater supply and air quality (during construction and operation of the pipeline).

"EPA acknowledges the air quality benefits associated with increased usage of natural gas in New England and the role a well designed project could play in provide additional capacity to deliver that gas," but "development of the project will have to be done in a manner that addresses the environmental concerns articulated in the NOI," wrote Timothy L. Timmermann, associate director of the Office of Environmental Review in the EPA's New England office in Boston, MA.

"The EIS should provide a detailed description of the wetlands/water bodies...along the route that includes their location as well as an assessment of their functions and values. The EIS should also describe the portions of the pipeline construction work that will involve discharging dredged or fill material in wetlands...that will be subject to the permit requirements of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act," he said.

In addition, "unavoidable impacts to wetlands, surface water resources (impacts to rivers/streams quality and flow), and wildlife should be fully disclosed in the EIS," Timmerman told FERC.

The EPA recommended that the Commission require Algonquin, a Spectra Energy pipeline, to use emission-control technologies to minimize air quality impacts during the construction of its project.                                                      

FERC is conducting the comprehensive review of environmental impacts as part of the Commission’s pre-filing process.in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (see Shale Daily, July 10).

The long-awaited pipeline would deliver 342,000 Dth/d of shale gas from the Utica and Marcellus regions to New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The project calls for the replacement of 19.6 miles of 26-inch diameter pipeline with 42-inch diameter pipe in New York and Connecticut; a 2.1-mile extension of an existing pipeline loop in Connecticut; and installation of 4.8 miles of new lateral pipeline in Massachusetts (the West Roxbury Lateral). The work also includes the addition of 72,240 hp at five existing compressor stations, the addition of new metering and regulating (M&R) stations in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and modifications to existing metering and regulating stations in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Algonquin expects the project to be completed and in service by Nov. 1, 2016.

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