RI Department of Health: block Burrillville pipeline expansion!

Providence, RI, Nov. 25, 2014: At a screening of film-maker/activist Robert Malin’s new documentary, “People’s Climate March: News You Didn’t See,” Fossil Free Rhode Island, a local climate advocacy group, announced plans to petition the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) to block the proposed build-out of a compressor station in Burrillville. The build-out is part of Spectra Energy Corp’s “Algonquin Incremental Market (or AIM) Project,” a proposed major expansion of a pipeline carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania to southern New England. Fossil Free RI has drawn up a petition and letter addressed to Dr. Michael Fine, RIDOH’s Director, and is requesting a meeting with him.

According to the letter, “Not only is this project part of a national energy policy that is potentially ruinous for life on Earth, but it poses an imminent threat to the safety and health of the people of Rhode Island.” The letter goes on to state: “Expanding our natural gas infrastructure is likely to accelerate climate change, which carries a plethora of health risks. At best, the project would delay the decarbonization of the Rhode Island power sector; at worst, it could be one of many disastrous missteps that will send the world over the ‘climate cliff’ in the next few years. By locking us into decades of increased dependence on fossil fuels, the AIM Project flies in the face of the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 and the increasingly urgent calls from scientists to move away from fossil fuels.”

In addition to the threat of global warming, the activists cite immediate health concerns. Maps created by the RI Department of Health already show a higher prevalence of asthma insurance claims in the section of Burrillville near the compressor station, which is a “major source of hazardous air pollutants,” according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project.

Lauren Niedel of Chepachet said: “Knowing that my neighbors are already getting sick here, I don’t understand why the Department of Health hasn’t stopped this. We need DoH to speak up and help us now, before Spectra bulldozers once again plow us under with all their money and influence.”

Marie Schopac, a Fossil Free RI member from Charlestown, said “AIM aims to put money in the pockets of fossil fuel corporations, which have historically disregarded human health. Why should we believe them now that this is safe?”

Peer reviewed public health literature shows that there are correlations between health impacts and residential proximity to compressor stations. Indeed, many toxic chemicals –including precursors to ozone, which is linked to asthma– are strongly associated with such facilities.

As Peter Nightingale, Professor of Physics at the University of Rhode Island stated: “We need an immediate end to uncontrolled experiments that threaten public health in Rhode Island and the habitability of the planet.”

For the extensively documented FFRI letter to the Rhode Island Department of Health click here.

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