Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guest Viewpoint for the Press & Sun Bulletin

Guest Viewpoint for the Press & Sun Bulletin

July 23, 2013, marked one year since West Windsor residents heard an explosive noise coming from the nearby Williams Partners-owned natural gas compressor station on Patterson Road, followed by a fireball that plumed well into the air above the tree line. Shaken by the experience, many of these homeowners went to the next Town of Windsor board meeting... to find out just what had happened at the compressor station on the late afternoon of July 23, 2012, when, during a severe thunder storm, lightning struck an exhaust pipe during a venting of natural gas. Not at all satisfied with the explanations given by Williams representatives, some of these concerned people began to meet on their own to pursue answers to this frightening incident and take a more serious look at a number of important issues facing a rural residential community now dealing with this heavy industry in our midst.
This is why our group—Concerned Residents of Windsor—was formed last summer. In November of 2012, after months of researching the design and construction of the compressor station and making enquiries of the NYS Public Service Commission and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, we drafted a five-page letter to many town, county and state officials, including the above agencies, addressing issues of air quality concerns, noise compliance violations, and problems with drainage. The compressor station was built into the side of a hill on 40 acres of cleared land with over forty homes within a ½–mile radius. Many important questions were asked in the letter—many remain unanswered.
Concerns about the amount of noise generated by a natural gas compressor station motivated the Town of Windsor to enact a Noise Control Ordinance in June of 2010—a law that received the full acceptance of the Public Service Commission. From the beginning and to date, the compressor station in West Windsor has never been totally in compliance with the local law. Nor have any fines ever been issued for non-compliance. Now Williams is petitioning the PSC for relief, claiming “the Town Code is unreasonably restrictive” and asking the PSC to either amend the town law to raise the established ambient sound level of 35 dBA to a level that would bring them into compliance or to “refuse to apply the Town Code noise limits at the Dunbar Station”.
For the people living nearby, it just means more noise and, with the prospect of a second natural gas transmission line and additional compressor capacity, it will probably get louder. And this doesn’t even take into account the numerous and noisy gas releases that have occurred in the past year, some in the middle of the night.
Concerned Residents of Windsor appreciates Town Supervisor Carolyn Price’s efforts in forming a working group that has brought together representatives from our group, town officials, local fire chiefs, and representatives from Williams. The meetings have addressed some of the serious issues we face, and some positive ideas have emerged. For example, the West Windsor Fire Chief recommended an audible alarm system at the compressor station to warn surrounding residents of an emergency situation. We wholly support this recommendation and hope that Williams Partners will give it more serious consideration than to “take it under advisement” as they have indicated they will do.
Grassroots community efforts like Concerned Residents of Windsor are vitally important to provide broader representation, oversight and accountability as the natural gas industry expands its transportation lines and accompanying compressor stations into New York State. We in West Windsor are the first in Broome County to experience living with a compressor station. We believe that people need to be better and more honestly informed about what to expect before one of these facilities is located in their residential neighborhood. How will it affect quality of life, health and property values? We were told by Laser Midstream back in 2010, regarding its proposed compressor station, that we wouldn’t see it, smell it, or hear it. But we do!
We are publicly asking the PSC to deny the request of Williams to raise the ambient dBA level in the Town of Windsor Noise Control Ordinance and to begin enforcing the existing levels. No further expansion of the compressor station should be permitted until this present noise issue is fully resolved. We are also asking our elected officials at the local, county, and state level to contact the PSC in support of this position.
Our experience in West Windsor indicates that New York State residents need to know much more about how they will be personally impacted by the location of major industrial operations in their rural residential communities. Just being told about projected economic benefits isn’t enough. We suggest that all residents of New York State check with their local officials to see how well prepared their own towns are for a compressor station in their midst. We need to get this right now, at the beginning, and not when a flood of new natural gas facilities is upon us.

CONCERNED RESIDENTS OF WINDSOR—Mark Lippolis, Jerry Henehan, Kelly Pennay, Linda Pierson, Scott Clarke, Rebecca Reed, Peter Ruggieri, Eileen Ruggieri

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