CPV natural (methane) gas power plant in agricultural region of Wawayanda
The Danger Next Door Natural gas facilities present immediate and long-term risks to our communities by Suzannah Glidden and Ellen Weininger
growing number of Americans realize that the continued extraction, production and distribution of natural gas and oil pollute our air, water and soil while also depleting and contaminating the world’s precious, finite supply of fresh water. “Natural gas” is also known as methane, a greenhouse gas that’s been proven to be 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Our region, including Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange Counties, has become a massive frontline, indeed a prime sacrifice zone, for the reckless perpetuation of fossil fuel use. We are being exposed to unprecedented levels of toxic emissions from natural gas facilities such as gas power plants, gas pipeline valves, compressor stations, and metering and pigging stations that are now operating in our communities, ruining the air we breathe and negatively impacting our health, quality of life and property values. These hazardous pollutants are associated with 19 out of 20 major diseases.
Immediate Health Risks
When natural gas is burned, the combination of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and sunlight produces ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in urban smog. Breathing ozone can trigger harmful health effects, including a racing heart and shortness of breath. Vulnerable populations like young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic lung and heart 24
Westchester/Putnam/Dutchess NY Edition
conditions such as COPD are especially at risk. Ground-level ozone also damages crops, trees and other vegetation. Beware when bad weather comes, with overcast skies and wind blowing from the direction of one of these facilities. When socked in by clouds, rain or snow, emissions are known to hug the ground instead of dissipating. If you live near a facility, even a few miles away, stay indoors with your windows closed or evacuate the area. Check an online weather station for the wind direction in your area, and recheck hourly. Be aware, too, that operators of natural gas facilities don’t announce planned “blowdown” events, when extra emissions are vented during maintenance testing. They also don’t send out alerts after emergency blowdowns. In New York State, they don’t do it because they don’t have to. Lax air regulations don’t require them to give blowdown notification, install the best pollutioncontrol technology or implement best practices. Last April, North Salem schools had to cancel all their outdoor sports activities for two days during a blowdown from a metering station about two miles away.
We Must Step Up
The public must demand change. The Westchester County Board of Legislators has submitted to Governor Andrew Cuomo recommendations for reducing pollutants and methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Other