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Troubled Nuke Plant Prompts Cuomo to Urge FERC to Suspend AIM Project

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asked FERC to order a halt to construction of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project, which would allow four state agencies to continue their investigations into a troubled nuclear power plant adjacent to the pipeline's route.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday, four New York state officials said their respective agencies -- the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (SES), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Public Service -- were conducting a full investigation into a range of issues that began last May at Entergy Corp.'s Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC).

According to the state officials, incidents at the IPEC include a leaking steam generator, electrical problems, improperly inserted control roads and a fire within a transformer. The latest, and most serious, incident occurred on Feb. 6, when a radioactive tritium leak at the plant caused groundwater radioactivity levels to increase more than 65,000%.

"The investigation is specifically looking into whether operational problems have caused this most recent leak. The tritium leak is just the latest of an increasing number of safety incidents at the Indian Point Nuclear Facility in the past year," said SES Commissioner John Melville, Public Service Commission Chairman Audrey Zibelman, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker.

The IPEC is located in Buchanan, NY, in Westchester County, and sits along the east bank of the Hudson River. The proposed path for the AIM pipeline will require horizontal directional drilling under the river and on land adjacent to the plant.

Last March, FERC gave authorization [CP14-96] for Spectra Energy Partners LP's Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC to begin construction of the 342,000 Dth/d pipeline in March 2015 (see Daily GPIMarch 4, 2015). The AIM pipeline will transport natural gas produced in the Marcellus and Utica shales from Ramapo, NY, to citygates in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It is expected to be in service during the second half of 2016.

"While [Spectra] has committed to build the pipeline to a more stringent standard on the IPEC grounds -- including laying two concrete liners above the pipeline to prevent excavation damage, burying the pipeline deeper than required, and using a stronger grade of steel than is required even in high consequence areas -- it is imperative to determine if this is enough in light of the recent significant tritium leak and other operational difficulties at the nuclear facility," the state officials said.

"An independent safety risk analysis will address the adequacy of those mitigation efforts. We will share the results with you immediately upon receiving them."

In a separate statement Monday, Cuomo urged FERC to suspend the AIM project until the safety risk analysis of the pipeline in completed.

Spectra currently has more than 19,000 miles of transmission pipelines, 70,000 miles of gathering lines and 39,900 miles of distribution lines. It also controls 1,700 and 1,500 miles of transmission pipeline for crude oil and natural gas liquids, respectively, as well as about 300 Bcf of natural gas storage capacity.

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