A proposed natural gas pipeline expansion project in New York and New Jersey, which cross nearly 30 bodies of water including the Hudson River and involves the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, has been endorsed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s report as “an environmentally acceptable action.”

According to the environmental impact statement released by the group late last week, the plan for the 20 miles of new pipeline as part of the Spectra Energy of Houston’s New Jersey – New York Expansion Project would have some limited adverse effects on the environment, but measures suggested would reduce those effects. The FERC report states that the impacts of the project, if the measures proposed by  Texas Eastern Transmission, LP’s (Texas Eastern) and Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC’s (Algonquin) and additional measures recommended in the EIS, were taken, the environmental “impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”

New York New Jersey Natural Gas Pipeline Supported by Regulatory Commission With Mitigation Measures

(Image: Spectra Energy of Houston)

The New York Times’ Green blog states that the pipeline would be the first in 40 years to reach New York City and it therefore is supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a way to anticipate future demand. Opponents cite health and environmental concerns associated by hydr0-fracking. The Times has more:

Opponents on both sides of the Hudson have cited safety concerns, including the possibility of accidental explosions in the densely populated path of the pipeline. Many opponents also argue that the project reflects a push by the natural gas industry to create infrastructure for new supplies of shale gas extracted through the controversial process known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking.

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Spectra officials say the project has undergone considerable modifications to meet safety concerns and it now exceeds federal requirements. In its final report, the regulatory commission’s staff said any adverse effects would be “limited,” occurring mostly during the construction phase, and it recommended measures to minimize them.

One example of the recommendations that would be taken to mitigate adverse environmental effects, according to the FERC report, includes specified drilling methods at the 26 bodies of water that would be near the pipeline.

The Times reports that next steps for the project to move forward is a vote by the FERC’s five-member commission. The recommendations made in the impact statement will be taken into consideration as part of the decision process.

The statement was developed through evaluation of the project’s effect on “geology; soils; groundwater; surface waters; wetlands; vegetation; wildlife and aquatic resources; special status species; land use, recreation, special interest areas, and visual resources; socioeconomics (including transportation and traffic); cultural resources; air quality and noise; and reliability and safety.”

According to an independent report about this project by Rutgers University, the expansion project could create more than 5,200 jobs in the area if allowed to go through.